Bill Keith, the owner and founder of Indiana-based solar-technology company SunRise Solar, used to be a small-business superstar. Keith’s business tried to only purchase its materials from American companies, and despite early troubles, SunRise Solar eventually turned into a success. President Obama, Senator Dick Lugar, the Chamber of Commerce, and various environmental groups all touted his business as evidence of the economic viability of green jobs.
Only now, the Obama administration’s policies on Chinese solar firms (which I wrote about here) risk putting him out of business.
Keith said the U.S. Customs Department has accused him of using Chinese-made solar panels, in violation of a tough import policy adopted in May at the behest of major U.S. solar companies. The policy is intended to thwart China from undercutting prices and flooding the U.S. market with cheaper solar panels. The U.S. Department of Commerce is currently reviewing the policy, and is scheduled to make a determination in the fall.
Keith denies that any of part of his solar fans are produced in China, but he admits he can’t totally prove it. According to Keith, the owner of the Hong Kong company that customizes his solar cells has stated in an affadavit that it buys the cells from the United States, Taiwan and Germany. But Keith worries that testimony won’t be good enough.
“The solar panel tariff is a broad-reaching tariff. In my estimation it shouldn’t be geared toward small niche markets like mine,” Keith said.
Unless he can show specific manufacturing documentation by August 29, Keith said he could be fined as much as 250 percent on his solar panels — an effective rate of $270,000.
If that anti-dumping fine is levied, Keith said he will have to shutter his business.
“These guys are going to put me out of business,” Keith said. “I don’t have any help. I’ve been trying to get help, no one can help me.”
Keith said he has never received government financial assistance and is taxed in the 40 percent bracket. He said he has sat by and watched companies like the now bankrupt Solyndra run through taxpayers’ money and not return on the government’s investment.
He said he doesn’t want a handout — just a helping hand. [Emphasis mine.]
It seems that Mr. Keith doesn’t even need a helping hand: Free trade should suffice.