If the US wants to be, in Barack Obama’s words, the “world’s leading exporter of renewable energy,” it’s got a lot of catching up to do. China is the king of solar, and it’s moving aggressively on the US market, the New York Times reports. Chinese solar companies have cut the price of panels in half, with one company even selling them at a loss to Americans to build market share.
Next, the companies plan to build factories in the US to bypass protectionist laws, following much the same model as Japanese automakers. Though the Obama administration would like to boost the US industry, Chinese companies have cheap loans and nigh-unbeatable labor costs—a recent college engineering graduate there makes $7,000 a year. “I don’t see Europe or the United States becoming major producers of solar products,” says one US solar executive. “They’ll be consumers.”