A Democratic senator today urged President Barack Obama to use U.S. trade laws to restrict surging imports of solar panels from China in a sign that high U.S. unemployment is increasing trade tensions.
"The American solar industry is facing unparalleled challenges and without the leadership of your administration this industry may disappear leaving behind additional workers without employment," Sen. Ron Wyden said in a letter.
"Letting that happen is unacceptable."
The plea came just days after solar-panel maker Solyndra filed for bankruptcy, becoming the third U.S. solar firm to succumb to pressure from China in recent weeks.
Solyndra said it had been unable to bring down its costs quickly enough to compete with cheaper panels from China despite receiving more than $535 million in U.S. federal loan guarantees.
"Chinese imports of solar panels are surging and are on pace to increase 240 percent this year, compared to 2010," Wyden said. "Furthermore, imports of Chinese solar panels increased 1,593 percent between 2006 and 2010."