* Commerce to announce decision on final duty levels on
* Renewable energy production tax credit expires Dec. 31
By Doug Palmer
WASHINGTON, Dec 13 U.S. wind tower
manufacturers, already facing the expiration of a tax credit
that has pumped up demand for wind energy projects, on Thursday
pleaded for a U.S. government panel to approve steep duties on
imports from China and Vietnam.
"The American wind tower industry has been devastated by
Chinese and Vietnamese trade practices," Kerry Cole, president
of Trinity Structural Towers, the largest remaining U.S.
producer of utility scale wind towers, told the U.S.
International Trade Commission.
The hearing came just before a final Commerce Department
determination on Tuesday of whether Chinese and Vietnamese wind
tower manufacturers are unfairly undercutting U.S. prices.
Earlier this year, the department said Chinese towers were
being sold at 20.85 percent to 72.69 percent below fair market
value and Vietnamese towers at discounts of 52.67 to 59.91
Preliminary anti-dumping duties could rise or fall next
week, but the ITC has to find U.S. producers have been
materially injured, or threatened with material injury, by the
imports for duties to take effect. That decision is expected by
Cole and Paul Smith, president of Broadwind Towers,
told the panel the past five years have been brutal for the U.S.
wind tower industry as they lost market share to imports from
China and Vietnam.
"Five major U.S. producers, two of whom were petitioners in
this investigation, have shut down tower operations and left the
industry. Others have been forced to curtail production, shutter
facilities and lay off workers, all as the result of the surge
of dumped and subsidized imports," Cole said.
Both Trinity and Broadwind manufacture the tall steel towers
uses to support the large turbines that generate electricity
from wind. Their customers include turbine manufacturers such as
GE and Siemens.
U.S. tower producers were particularly upset when GE went
with Chinese suppliers for the 338-tower Shepherds Flat project
in eastern Oregon, which is expected to be completed next year
and is billed as the world's largest wind farm.
GE did not testify at Thursday's hearing, but an attorney
representing Siemens said duties were unwarranted because
domestic producers had not produced any evidence of
under-selling by Chinese or Vietnamese competitors.
Instead, "the record is full of petitioners' confessions of
turning down orders because they did not have the capacity to
deliver. So their loss of market share was due to their
inability to produce more, not foreign imports," said Elliot
Feldman, an attorney at Baker & Hostetler.
Meanwhile, a renewable energy tax credit that has fueled
demand for wind energy projects is set to expire on Dec. 31,
without a last-minute extension from Congress.
The American Wind Energy Association, whose members include
both GE and Siemens, is pressing Congress to allow Congress to
continue the credit for projects that start in 2013.
But opponents, such as the American Energy Alliance, argue
that would be a waste of taxpayer funds at a time when the
government is trying to cut costs.
The wind tower producers at the hearing said they expect
demand for new towers to be weak in 2013 even if the tax credit
That makes it critical that duties are imposed on imports
from China and Vietnam, they said.