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Human rights allegations in Xinjiang could jeopardize solar supply chain

February 7, 2021

By Paul Homewood

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h/t Patsy Lacey

 

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 We already know about the devastating environmental damage caused the world’s hunger for rare earths. But it appears that China’s solar panel industry has other problems, as this report from last October explains:

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The solar industry’s growing dependence on China’s autonomous Xinjiang region for a critical raw material poses mounting risks to a wide range of companies as the U.S. government moves to confront Beijing over alleged human rights abuses there.

In 2019, when solar ranked as the world’s top source of new power generating capacity, about one-third of the polysilicon the industry used to make solar panels came from Xinjiang, according to Johannes Bernreuter of Bernreuter Research. China as a whole accounts for about 80% of global capacity. With polysilicon-makers boosting production in Xinjiang, Richard Winegarner, a former industry analyst who retired in late 2019, said the region is poised to become "even more important" to the solar market in the coming years.

Those deepening ties come as Washington’s scrutiny of labor conditions in the region intensifies. On the heels of a U.S. government report that described rampant abuse of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill in September that would ban goods made "wholly or in part" in the region unless the producers were proven not to have used forced labor. The near-unanimous vote came a week after U.S. Customs and Border Protection ordered officers to seize certain imports from Xinjiang, including cotton and computer parts.

Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican member of the Committee on Foreign Relations who introduced a companion bill to the House legislation, said in September that the U.S. "must ensure that goods stained with forced labor stop entering our supply chains." Rubio’s bill, which has 19 co-sponsors, including six Democrats, was referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations in March.

A spokesperson for Joe Biden said in August that the Democrat presidential nominee believed that the Chinese government is committing "genocide" against Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang……

By 2021, five companies in China and Hong Kong will control two-thirds of the world’s polysilicon market, according to Dennis Ip, an analyst at Daiwa Capital Markets Hong Kong Ltd.

https://www.spglobal.com/marketintelligence/en/news-insights/latest-news-headlines/human-rights-allegations-in-xinjiang-could-jeopardize-solar-supply-chain-60829945 

 

Google and Amazon love to brag about their green credentials. As the biggest US purchasers of solar power, however, they refused to comment on their complicity in the abuse of human rights.

Walmart Inc., another top corporate buyer, simply washed its hands saying it buys electricity from solar farms rather than the panels themselves. "However, we have zero tolerance for forced labor and protecting the dignity of workers and addressing forced labor is a priority for Walmart," a spokesperson said.

US companies have been trying for years to take back production of solar panels, but as Bernreuter says “I doubt that such an industry would be able to be price-competitive”.

When renewable proponents tell you how cheap solar power now is, remember all of the hidden costs.

6 Comments
  1. tom0mason permalink
    February 7, 2021 12:37 pm

    “Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican member of the Committee on Foreign Relations who introduced a companion bill to the House legislation, said in September that the U.S. “must ensure that goods stained with forced labor stop entering our supply chains.” Rubio’s bill, which has 19 co-sponsors, including six Democrats, was referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations in March.”

    Nice euphemism that, “forced labor”, IT’S SLAVERY!
    Chinese solar panel are products of slavery!

  2. February 7, 2021 12:56 pm

    Such solar panels made thus represent the useless based on the labour of the hopeless.

  3. February 7, 2021 1:23 pm

    Xinjiang is the eastern equivalent of the Arab Oil states.

    The situation in Xinjiang can’t be understood without reference to the history of the region. I suggest start here: https://www.chinafile.com/reporting-opinion/features/beijings-long-struggle-control-xinjiangs-mineral-wealth

    Consider this:
    The most dangerous moments of the Sino-Soviet split came in the late 1960s. Disputes over a contested border in Xinjiang province in China’s remote north-west led to more angry words and a round of border talks that ultimately broke down. Through the second half of 1968, China and the Soviet Union built up their military presence in the region, to the point where more than 1.5 million soldiers were straddling the Ussuri River.
    In October 1968, Chinese defence minister Lin Biao said his forces were preparing for an invasion of Soviet territory. In March 1969, the first skirmishes were reported, with Chinese and Russian soldiers opening fire on Zhenbao Island. More clashes followed, leading to the resumption of talks in June.
    Between 350 and 700 soldiers, most of them Chinese, were killed in the intermittent fighting in Xinjiang. For a time the Soviet leadership even considered using nuclear weapons against its former ally.

    It’s all about resources, including oil.

  4. February 7, 2021 2:25 pm

    But we have known all this for years yet this ethical dimension seems to gain no traction in the battle against ‘evil’ Co2. Most curious.

    As is the apparent lack of concern that we do not have enough of these minerals to even begin to cater for demand, nor that such a huge percentage is owned by China. Again, things we have known for years.

  5. February 7, 2021 2:29 pm

    Other reasons for current low prices are explained here

    http://blog.gorozen.com/blog/how-low-can-lithium-ion-battery-costs-go

    Yes, battery costs have dropped dramatically over the last decade, but we believe these costs reductions were one-time in nature and will be near impossible to repeat. Further cost reductions will be entirely dependent on major advancements in battery technology, which, as of today, don’t exist. ……….. more

  6. February 7, 2021 5:15 pm

    I would much rather that miners in Cumbria had jobs in a well resourced modern coal mine than slave labour in China.
    And just for the record, yes I have been to the coal-face of a working pit during my time at the British Geological Survey, so I do know first-hand of the dangers that miners experience.

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