By next month, the U.S. International Trade Commission, having unanimously ruled that American solar-panel makers are harmed by competition from Asian and other rivals, will recommend what tariffs or other import penalties the president should impose. The commission and the president need to understand that punishing Asian panel makers would do more than damage trade relations: It would also cripple the thriving U.S. solar-energy business.
Most solar panels sold in the U.S. are made in Asia. In the past several years, falling prices have driven stunning growth in U.S. installations -- a 17-fold increase since 2008. Yet jobs in American solar have soared as well -- in fact, 17 times faster than growth in the overall U.S. economy. That's because only about 15 percent of the more than 260,000 jobs in the American solar business are in manufacturing. Most are in installation and project development.