WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. solar industry group fighting a rival coalition's request for steep import duties on solar cells and modules made in China released a report on Monday warning more than 60,000 U.S. jobs could be lost if duties are imposed.
"We cannot allow one company's anti-China crusade to threaten the U.S. solar industry and tens of thousands of American jobs," Jigar Shah, president of the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy (CASE), said in a statement on the report it commissioned from The Brattle Group, an economics consulting firm.
CASE says its represents companies responsible for 97 to 98 percent of U.S. solar industry jobs, which it defines to include residential and commercial installation of solar panels as well as domestic manufacturing.
The group strongly opposes a request for anti-dumping and countervailing duties on Chinese-made solar cells and panel filed by Solarworld Industries America, the U.S. arm of one of Germany's largest solar manufacturer.
SolarWorld, along with six other U.S. solar energy companies who have remained anonymous, has asked the U.S. Commerce Department to impose duties of more 100 percent on their Chinese competitors to offset alleged government subsidies and unfair pricing practices.
The department is expected to announce preliminary countervailing duties in the case around February 14, when China's likely next leader, Vice President Xi Jinping, meets with President Barack Obama at the White House.
U.S. imports of the solar energy products from China have soared in recent years and were expected to exceed $2.4 billion in 2011, up from about $1.5 billion in 2010.
The Brattle Group study estimated that a 50-percent tariff would shut out most imports from China, driving up prices for solar panels and resulting in 14,877 to 43,178 fewer U.S. solar industry U.S. jobs by 2014 than otherwise.
A 100-percent tariff would completely block imports from China, threatening 16,917 to 49,589 jobs by 2014, it said.
In addition, Beijing's threat to retaliate by slapping its own duties on U.S. exports of polysilicon to China would put nearly 11,000 more U.S. jobs at risk, the study said.
Polysilicon is a key material used to make photovoltaic solar cells.
(Reporting By Doug Palmer)