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‘Clean’ Energy Carries a Dirty Secret

Helen Raleigh writes at National Review Online about an aspect of “clean” energy that its advocates try to hide.

President Biden pledged to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by at least 50 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels. An estimate shows that to reach this ambitious goal, at least half of the U.S. power supply would have to come from clean energy such as solar and wind. However, one dirty secret that President Biden and his green allies don’t want to talk about is how “clean” solar energy is largely built on forced labor in Xinjiang, China, according to a new investigative report by U.K.’s Sheffield Hallam University.

China dominates the global supply chain for solar power and is the leading exporter of solar panels and critical components for making solar panels. For instance, about 95 percent of solar modules rely on one mineral — solar-grade polysilicon, and China produces 80 percent of the world supply of polysilicon. Xinjiang alone is responsible for 45 percent of the world’s supply of polysilicon. Such a high level of production requires a significant supply of labor.

The Sheffield Hallam University report, titled “In Broad Daylight: Uyghur Forced Labor and Global Solar Supply Chains,” shows how China’s booming solar industry has been tainted by the forced labor of Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang.

For example, U.K. researchers located an official Chinese government paper published in 2020 that acknowledged that the government had placed about 2.6 million minorities in farms and factories within Xinjiang and across China through state-sponsored “surplus labor” and “labor transfer” programs. Many minorities in these programs ended up working for Xinjiang’s growing solar industry. However, the Chinese government claims these labor-transfer programs comply with China’s laws and regulations, and workers’ participation in these programs is voluntary.

But based on the Chinese government’s own directives, state-media reports, and personal testimonies from Uyghurs, the report paints an entirely different picture.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...