Category Archives: International

Threat of Tariff Clouding Hopes for Solar Industry

A view of solar panels being installed at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The solar energy industry has been growing steadily for the past several years. Both consumers and US businesses are embracing in a big way solar energy. The installation of solar panels reached a new record last year. The domestic solar industry now employs more than a quarter million people, and growing, according to The Solar Foundation.

Much of this growth has been spurred on by inexpensive photovoltaic cells and panels made in China and other countries in Asia and the Far East. These low-cost panels have helped bring down the costs of using solar by approximately 70 percent since 2010, creating the affordability that has made solar increasingly attractive over the past few years.

This growth is threatened however, by the prospect that President Trump may impose a tax on imported solar photovoltaic cells. If Trump indeed imposes a trade tax on China and other Asian manufacturers of solar cells, it would be in response to a complaint made by Suniva, a Georgia-based company that manufactures solar panels. The company would like to see Trump place a tariff which would effectively double the price of imported panels, insuring that Suniva and other US producers can compete in the marketplace. About 95 percent of all cells and panels sold in the US last year were imported, mostly from China, Malaysia and the Philippines.

The Trump administration has not announced its intentions in this matter. However, it is well-known that the president has complained many times about the “unfair” importing of steel from abroad, vowing to help protect domestic steelmakers and other US manufacturers by implementing tariffs on imports.

Without a clear view of the future, several US energy customers are putting some solar projects on hold for now, while manufacturers are waiting to see what other markets might develop. Some investors are getting out of the industry altogether. The second quarter saw deals drop to $1.4 billion this year, down from $3.2 billion in 2017’s Q1 and from $1.7 billion in Q1 of 2016.

Ed Fenster, chairman of the San Francisco-based Sunrun said Trump’s implementation of a tariff to punish foreign manufacturers and boost US competitiveness will backfire, harming most the American blue-color workers he campaigned to help.

“A solar-panel tax imperils what our country needs most: well-paying jobs that can’t be exported or automated,” Fenster said.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in to Meet President Trump

The lead up to the coming meeting between President Moon Jae-in of South Korea and President Donald Trump is full of anticipation over the many things the two leaders are preparing to discuss.

One of those issues concerns South Koreans desire to import more American shale gas and also build new factories in the United States.

The summit is scheduled for next week in Washington, DC. South Korea’s largest business group, the Korea Chamber of Commerce, are preparing a large gamut of new investment opportunities which can potentially be a source of job growth for the US. Offering jobs to US citizens should give the Koreans a better position vis a vis the enlarging trade imbalance in favor of Korea which is of special concern to the isolationist tendencies of President Trump.

Samsung Electronics announced earlier this week that it plans to build a new appliance factory in South Carolina for about $380 million. In addition, the giant consumer electronics company would like to beef up its semiconductor plant in Texas for about $1.5 billion. Additional states in the US can also expect some job growth if LG Electronics implements its plan to invest $250 million into constructing a new factory to make washing machines in Tennessee, and $300 million on a new building in New Jersey.

Since 2012 the trade deficit the US has with South Korea has almost doubled. At that time, the US and South Korea signed a bilateral trade agreement. Trump criticized this very deal while on the campaign trail last year.

Total trade between the two allies totaled $144.6 billion in 2016, with the US holding a $17 billion deficit.

China Wants US to Take Some Responsibility for WannaCry Cyber Attack

The recent global cyber-attack known as WannaCry infected over 300,000 computers around the world, with China among the hardest hit. As of Saturday, about 30,000 Chinese organizations were infected with a “ransomware” virus that takes advantage of weaknesses in Microsoft Corp systems.

China lashed out against the United States in the wake of the damage, demanding that the US shoulder some of the blame for the attack, referring to the US National Security Agency as especially responsible.

“Concerted efforts to tackle cybercrimes have been hindered by the actions of the United States,” the China Daily said. They added that the US has “no credible evidence” to support bans on tech firms from China after the attack.

The attack began on Friday and was linked to other attacks launched by North Korean-run hacking entities. Researchers say that the malware attack used a tool that the NSA built that was leaked online last month, Microsoft stated.

The attack also came just as China readies to enforce a broad cyber security law opposed by US business groups. The groups claim that the law will make it more difficult for foreign companies in China to do business due to strict requirements concerning data storage and surveillance.

Alexium Takes the Prize

The premier business awards program in the United States announced its winners of the 15th annual prize. The Alexium International Group took a prize, which will be presented in New York in June.

The CEO and executive director of Alexium, Nicholas Clark, was awarded the Silver Stevie Award for Executive of the Year in the chemicals division.

Australia-based Alexium is the patent holder for cutting-edge technologies designed to provide flame resistance to a broad spectrum of materials. Many industries can, and will, benefit from the use of the company’s environmentally friendly flame retardants. The materials can also be customized.

The company also has other products such as water repellents, antimicrobials, and phase-change materials; and can combine these into uniquely useful products.

Toshiba’s Nuclear Arm, Westinghouse, Filing Bankruptcy

Computer-controlled Westinghouse sign atop the Wesco Building in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The sign was demolished in 1998. Photo by Richard Huppertz

Due to huge cost overruns in two projects in Georgia and South Carolina, Westinghouse, the US nuclear division of Toshiba, has filed for bankruptcy protection. The losses have negatively affected the Japanese parent company, Toshiba putting the future of the conglomerate at risk.

Toshiba announced that the bankruptcy will not harm Westinghouse, UK, which has over 1,000 employees on its payroll.

The financial loss of its US nuclear business could impact Toshiba itself in a catastrophic way, with the years losses surpassing even $1 trillion yen ($9 billion), which is close to three times the previous estimate.

The Japanese government has been informed by Toshiba about its move to declare Westinghouse bankrupt.

In December 2016 Toshiba informed its investors that there were large losses connected with a deal made by Westinghouse. Assets that the company took on are expected to be worth less than initially thought, plus there is a dispute about payments that are due. As a result, Toshiba at first hoped to simply sell its majority stake in Westinghouse. Toshiba also received permission to delay reporting earnings twice, and now is expected to declare earnings on April 11. The company’s nuclear arm is the source of about 33 percent of the company’s revenue.

New Travel Ban Expected to Curtail Flow of Refugees Once Again

Since President Trump issued his first executive order banning refugees from certain countries from entering the United States, there has continued to be a flow of people into the country, since the ban was cancelled a federal judge.

Nearly 2,500 refugees have entered the United States from banned countries since the day of the executive order. During Trump’s first seven weeks in office almost 8,000 refugees entered the US. The division among different religions of those refugees was 3,410 Muslims, 3,292 Christians, 821 other and 71 unaffiliated.

The executive order attempted to prevent refugees from entering from seven specific countries: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, but 2,466 people from these very countries did enter the US.

On inauguration day this year refugees were entering on a regular basis. During Trump’s first week in office 687 refugees entered the US. The following week, after the ban was announced, there was virtually no refugees entering the US. When the federal courts suspended the ban, refugees began to enter the US once again.

During the Obama administration 84,995 refugees entered the US in 2016, an eight-year high. Donald Trump’s new ban goes into effect on March 16. We can expect a similar curtailment of refugees entering the US as a result of the new ban for at least 120 days, unless this ban is also defeated in the courts.

US Government Stimulating Nigerian Power Sector with $1 Billion

Eskom Generation’s pilot wind-farm facility at Klipheuwel in the Western Cape, South Africa. Photo by Warren Rohner from Cape Town, South Africa.

The United States government is investing about $1 billion in the power sector of Nigeria, said the coordinator of the program to light up Africa, Andrew Herscowitz.

The plan, known as Power Africa, was announced at a media conference in Abuja, Nigeria last week. Herscowitz added that the US government has already committed several billion dollars to funding the developing nation’s energy projects.

Power Africa was initiated by President Barack Obama in 2013. The goal was to improve access to electricity there, adding over 30,000 megawatts (MW) of more efficient and cleaner energy development in sub-Saharan Africa. The project also aims to jump-start the development of other sources of power, such as wind, solar, hydro, natural gas, biomass, and geothermal energy sources, all found in abundance in Africa.

“It has advanced US$50 million in financing from the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) to Lumos, a Nigeria-based solar energy company, to scale up it’s off-grid solar power service to about 200,000 Nigerian homes and businesses.

“Power Africa has supported power companies in the country to the tune of 100 million dollars capital expenditure credit enhancement facility with a corresponding 6.5 million dollars in technical assistance and (supported) another 1.5 million dollars to turn around the DISCOS,” Herscowitz said.

Daniel Taub Interviewed on CNN

Portrait of Daniel Taub. Photo courtesy of Daniel Taub.

While the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, was in England visiting the recently appointed Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Theresa May, Daniel Taub, former ambassador to the United Kingdom, discussed current events with CNN international news Anchor Christiane Amanpour.

Amanpour’s opening question addressed the issue of settlements, and US President Trump’s recent statement that it would be better if Israel refrained from establishing new settlements. Daniel Taub responded that although he thought that the issue of settlements most likely did come up in conversation between PM May and PM Netanyahu, it was most likely not the most pressing issue on their agenda.

The CNN anchor then went on to ask Mr. Taub what he thought could happen in the future concerning Iran and the nuclear deal which PM May said is vitally important for regional security in the Middle East. Taub answered that there is a high level of security and intelligence cooperation between the UK and Israel, and they both are aware that there is a very real threat from Iran, stating that the head of the Iranian nuclear program declared that there is 60 percent more Uranium than they had at the start of the agreement when the sanctions on Iran were lifted.

Finally, Amanpour asked what Netanyahu hopes to achieve when he heads to Washington, DC to meet the newly appointed President of the United States, Donald Trump, next week. Mr. Taub answered that he believes PM Netanyahu’s primary objective will be to further deepen the already positive relationship Israel has with the US., mirroring his main objective of his visit to the UK, strengthening the bond there as well.

AirAsia X Awarded License to Fly to USA

The Federal Aviation Administration awarded AirAsia X, the Malaysia-based budget airline, a license to fly to the United States. It is the first such airline to achieve this status.

AirAsia X CEO Datuk Kamarudin Meranum said, ““It is an extraordinary achievement. Our expansion so far only focused on Asia, Australia and the Middle East. We are in high spirits to expand farther than just the Asia-Pacific.”

The AirAsia Group is the largest airline in Malaysia, with over 165 destinations in 25 countries, with 120 of those in the Asia-Pacific corridor.

With its newly awarded license to fly to the US, the company will also begin to re-introduce flights to London. It is now arranging the needed licenses.

Big Business Afraid of Trump Paris Accord Pullout

This diagram shows ten indicators of global warming: Seven of these indicators would be expected to increase in a warming world.

This diagram shows ten indicators of global warming: Seven of these indicators would be expected to increase in a warming world.

Some of America’s largest businesses are worried enough about global warming to send off an open letter to the president-elect, Donald Trump, urging him not to flee from the agreement signed in Paris to slow down climate change.

The three-hundred companies include 72 which bring in more than $100 million in annual revenues. Among the more famous companies who are signatories to the letter are: Dannon, DuPont, eBay, Gap, General Mills, Hewlett Packard, Hilton, Intel, Kellogg, Levi Strauss, Mars, Monsanto, Nike, Patagonia, Staples, Starbucks, The Hartford, Tiffany and Vail Resorts. And that is just the beginning.

The letter was also sent to members of Congress and President Obama. Part of the letter reads:

“We want the U.S. economy to be energy-efficient and powered by low-carbon energy… Failure to build a low-carbon economy puts American prosperity at risk.”

According to Victor Lipman, writing for Forbes, climate change is not just an environmental issue, but it is also a management issue. Climate change poses “major long-term risks to natural resources, agriculture, supply chains, infrastructure, and multiple business operations.”

Lipman went on to explain that this crucial issue was “conspicuously ignored” during the election campaign. This is why now business leaders are worried about some of the things Trump said about climate change in the past. He has hinted, and more than hinted, that the science behind climate change predictions is false, and he has also voiced the possibility that he would have the United States abandon the agreement signed in Paris.

“Elections change our leadership but they don’t change reality,” said Matthew Hamilton. He is the director of sustainability at Aspen Skiing Company. His statement was part of the open letter.

Adam Kanzer, managing director at Domini Social Investments LLC said, “Long-term stable financial returns are dependent upon a stable and resilient climate.”