Maine Wire Editor-in-Chief Steve Robinson joined WVOM’s George Hale and Ric Tyler Monday morning to tell listeners about his exclusive investigative report on the ties between Gov. Janet Mills’ push for solar panels and human rights violations in the People’s Republic of China.
As Robinson reports, the solar industry in America has been criticized by the Biden administration and non-governmental organizations for doing little to ensure that its supply chains don’t connect to forced labor operations in the Xinjiang region of Western China. In fact, the Biden administration has even blacklisted several major solar panel producers for suspected ties to forced labor operations run by the Chinese Communist Party. Until 2020, one of those producers was publicly listed as the top supplier of polysilicon for Canadian Solar, the company that supplied the solar panels for the Maine Department of Transportation’s solar panel complex in Augusta.
Were the solar modules in Augusta made with slave labor? It’s impossible to know for sure. But Canadian Solar has resisted shareholder calls for them to hire a third-party to audit its supply chain for possible human rights violations. And had the Department of Transportation understood the deep connections between the solar industry and rights violations in western China, they might have been able to avoid indirectly supporting an industry that has profited from forced labor in the past, and quite likely still is.
Whatever you think about solar panels, it is incontestable that the industry has an uncomfortable relationship with forced labor. But rather than address that fact and mandate that state government purchase solar modules made in America, state officials would rather turn a blind eye — and the news media in this state are happy to let them do it.