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Why Is the U.S. Meddling in India’s Solar Energy Policy?

Why Is the U.S. Meddling in India’s Solar Energy Policy?

Given the overwhelming scientific evidence that climate change will wreak havoc on our planet, you’d think the international community would be doing everything it can to promote better energy habits. The good news is that India has spent the past few years working to develop its own solar energy technology. The bad news is that the United States would prefer India to use the U.S.’s technology and is ready to call for trade sanctions to make it happen.

Currently, India is primarily reliant on coal for its energy, meaning that there’s a lot of pollution coming from the world’s second largest nation. As Indian leaders cultivated a solar energy plan, they stipulated that at least half of the components had to be manufactured domestically, reports the Huffington Post. The hope is to simultaneously improve the environment and the country’s economy.

However, the United States is once again putting concerns for climate change second to its own economic concerns. U.S. leaders seem willing to jeopardize India’s progressive solar energy plan by involving the World Trade Organization (WTO). The U.S. wants no restrictions placed on its own solar technology entering India and has called the country’s current plan “discriminatory” against the United States. Michael Froman, the U.S. Trade Representative, announced, “We are determined to stand up for U.S. workers and businesses.”

However, environmental activists from around the world are displeased that the United States would interfere with something that benefits the entire planet. From their perspective, it seems counterproductive for the U.S. to pursue this particular matter with all of the other potential trade disagreements it could focus on instead.

The U.S. isn’t without a strong argument of its own, though. It points out that by limiting the market from which Indians can buy solar products and technology, that will effectively drive up the price. Most likely, more Indians will be able to adopt solar technology if it is more affordable.

Representatives from both countries have already met in an attempt to end the dispute, but they were unable to negotiate an agreement. If India and the United States cannot settle the matter on their own within the next two weeks, the WTO will have to make a ruling, at which point it could impose trade sanctions on India.

Notably, the United States and China also have an ongoing dispute related to solar energy. Two years later, the WTO is still trying to sort out this pair of country’s disagreement over solar panels. In the meantime, each country has imposed special taxes on the other’s solar panels to effectively shut them out of their respective markets.

Meanwhile, many have interpreted this newer disagreement as an attempt to stifle India from developing its own successful economy. “India has to create domestic manufacturing capacities,” said Anand Sharma, Commerce Minister of India. “India must have those capacities. Otherwise, we will end up importing for the rest of our lives.

Anjali Jaiswal, head of the India Initiative at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), disagrees with this philosophy. She believes that India can develop its manufacturing capabilities while still allowing U.S. solar imports. She points to an NRDC study that found that the economic benefits of solar energy in India go beyond which country makes the products. Just selling and installing new solar technology in India would create new jobs in itself.

Other environmentalist groups in both nations (including the Center for American Progress and India’s Ananta Centre) have refused to take a side on the issue, instead urging a speedy resolution so that energy advancements are not delayed further. Petty trade squabbles, they argue to not address the larger problem at hand: climate change. Ideally, both countries will come to understand that profits are secondary to taking care of the planet.

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Photo credit: Thinkstock

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97 comments

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1:26PM PDT on Jun 18, 2014

Take care of the USA problems, then assist, not bully.

1:20AM PDT on Apr 11, 2014

Let them manufacture their own solar power, instead of trying to make them buy ours for a higher price than it would be if they produced it. In fact if the US companies want to sell solar devices and technology, it can start by marketing it right here for we need it desperately as our pollution and spills from oil gas and coal are getting out of control.

1:35PM PDT on Apr 6, 2014

Disgusting behaviour, but typical of most big rich countries - "do I tell you, not as I do".

1:14PM PDT on Apr 6, 2014

Thank you for this very interesting article.

5:37PM PDT on Apr 5, 2014

Thanks

8:14AM PDT on Apr 5, 2014

Live long & prosper!

4:47PM PDT on Apr 4, 2014

May India succeed in their progress

9:58AM PDT on Apr 4, 2014

Right, because the USA is run by a Plutocracy, is focused on its own wants, not needs, and thinks it is "exceptional"
It is, exceptionally self absorbed and greedy, does not really are about its own, or anybody else's, people.

6:43AM PDT on Apr 3, 2014

Exactly John F we havent had a free market in 20 or more years. Some on the right Pretend to have one but it no longer exists.

4:51PM PDT on Apr 2, 2014

Of course, the issue is free trade which strongly favors the established transnationals. Before transnationals took control of nation states, free trade might have made sense. Now, we need to think first about a nation's self-sufficiency and stop evoking principles which only serve to protect the status quo.

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