More stories

  • in

    U.S. Adds Tariffs to Shield Struggling Solar Industry

    American solar manufacturers are pushing for further protections for their new factories against cheaply priced imports from China.Tariffs aimed at protecting America’s solar industry from foreign competition snapped back into place on Thursday, ending a two-year pause that President Biden approved as part of his effort to jump-start solar adoption in the U.S.The tariffs, which will apply to certain solar products made by Chinese companies in Southeast Asia, kicked in at a moment of growing global concern about a surge of cheap Chinese solar products that are undercutting U.S. and European manufacturers.The Biden administration has been trying to build up America’s solar industry by offering tax credits, and companies have announced more than 30 new U.S. manufacturing investments in the past year. But U.S. solar companies say they are still struggling to survive as competitors in China and Southeast Asia flood the global market with solar panels that are being sold at prices far below what American firms need to charge to stay in business.That has forced President Biden to make an uncomfortable choice: Continue welcoming inexpensive imports that are helping the United States transition away from fossil fuels, or block them to protect new U.S. solar factories that are benefiting from taxpayer money.The tariffs that take effect Thursday encapsulated that dilemma. The levies, which apply to certain solar products coming to the United States from Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam, were approved two years ago, after U.S. officials ruled that some Chinese firms were trying to dodge preexisting American tariffs on China by routing solar panels through other countries. The exact tariff rate depends on the company but could be more than 250 percent.The Chinese firms had set up factories in Southeast Asia, but Commerce Department officials said that some were not doing substantial manufacturing there. Rather, they were using sites in those countries to make minor changes to Chinese-made solar products, and then shipping them to the United States tariff-free, the ruling decided.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

  • in

    Why Are People So Down About the Economy? Theories Abound.

    Things look strong on paper, but many Americans remain unconvinced. We asked economic officials, the woman who coined “vibecession” and Charlamagne Tha God what they think is happening.The U.S. economy has been an enigma over the past few years. The job market is booming, and consumers are still spending, which is usually a sign of optimism. But if you ask Americans, many will tell you that they feel bad about the economy and are unhappy about President Biden’s economic record.Call it the vibecession. Call it a mystery. Blame TikTok, media headlines or the long shadow of the pandemic. The gloom prevails. The University of Michigan consumer confidence index, which looked a little bit sunnier this year after a substantial slowdown in inflation over 2023, has again soured. And while a measure of sentiment produced by the Conference Board improved in May, the survey showed that expectations remained shaky.The negativity could end up mattering in the 2024 presidential election. More than half of registered voters in six battleground states rated the economy as “poor” in a recent poll by The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer and Siena College. And 14 percent said the political and economic system needed to be torn down entirely.What’s going on here? We asked government officials and prominent analysts from the Federal Reserve, the White House, academia and the internet commentariat about what they think is happening. Here’s a summary of what they said.Kyla Scanlon, coiner of the term ‘Vibecession’Price levels matter, and people are also getting some facts wrong.The most common explanation for why people feel bad about the economy — one that every person interviewed for this article brought up — is simple. Prices jumped a lot when inflation was really rapid in 2021 and 2022. Now they aren’t climbing as quickly, but people are left contending with the reality that rent, cheeseburgers, running shoes and day care all cost more.“Inflation is a pressure cooker,” said Kyla Scanlon, who this week is releasing a book titled “In This Economy?” that explains common economic concepts. “It hurts over time. You had a couple of years of pretty high inflation, and people are really dealing with the aftermath of that.”We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

  • in

    Will Billions More in New Aid Save Family Farms?

    Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has a line about the state of small-scale agriculture in America these days.It’s drawn from the National Agricultural Statistics Service, which shows that as the average size of farms has risen, the nation had lost 544,000 of them since 1981. “That’s every farm today that exists in North Dakota and South Dakota, added to those in Wisconsin and Minnesota, added to those in Nebraska and Colorado, added to those in Oklahoma and Missouri,” Mr. Vilsack told a conference in Washington this spring. “Are we as a country OK with it?”Even though the United States continues to produce more food on fewer acres, Mr. Vilsack worries that the loss of small farmers has weakened rural economies, and he wants to stop the bleeding. Unlike his last turn in the same job, under former President Barack Obama, this time his department is able to spend billions of dollars in subsidies and incentives passed under three major laws since 2021 — including the biggest investment in conservation programs in U.S. history.The plan in a nutshell: Multiply and improve revenue streams to bolster farm balance sheets. Rather than just selling crops and livestock, farms of the future could also sell carbon credits, waste products and renewable energy.“Instead of the farm getting one check, they potentially could get four checks,” Mr. Vilsack said in an interview. He is also helping schools, hospitals and other institutions to buy food grown locally, and investors to build meatpacking plants and other processing facilities to free farmers from powerful middlemen.American Farms Are DisappearingAs agriculture consolidates, fewer operations grow more crops.

    Source: U.S. Department of AgricultureBy The New York TimesWe are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

  • in

    U.S. and Europe Move Closer to Using Russian Assets to Help Ukraine

    Finance ministers from the G7 nations are hoping to finalize a plan ahead of the group’s leaders meeting next month.The United States and Europe are coalescing around a plan to use interest earned on frozen Russian central bank assets to provide Ukraine with a loan to be used for military and economic assistance, potentially providing the country with a multibillion-dollar lifeline as Russia’s war effort intensifies.Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said in an interview on Sunday that several options for using $300 billion in immobilized Russian assets remained on the table. But she said the most promising idea was for Group of 7 nations to issue a loan to Ukraine that would be backed by profits and interest income that is being earned on Russian assets held in Europe.Finance ministers from the Group of 7 will be meeting in Italy later this week in hopes of finalizing a plan that they can deliver to heads of state ahead of the group’s leaders meeting next month. The urgency to find a way to deliver more financial support to Ukraine has been mounting as the country’s efforts to fend off Russia have shown signs of faltering.“I think we see considerable interest among all of our partners in a loan structure that would bring forward the stream of windfall profits,” Ms. Yellen said during her flight to Germany, where she is holding meetings ahead of the Group of 7 summit. “It would generate a significant up-front amount that would help meet needs we anticipate Ukraine is going to have both militarily and through reconstruction.”For months, Western allies have been debating how far to go in using the Russian central bank assets. The United States believes that it would be legal under international law to confiscate the money and give it to Ukraine, but several European countries, including France and Germany, have been wary about the lawfulness of such a move and the precedent that it would set.Although the United States recently passed legislation that would give the Biden administration the authority to seize and confiscate Russian assets, the desire to act in unison with Europe has largely sidelined that idea.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

  • in

    A Loss at Mercedes-Benz Slows U.A.W.’s Southern Campaign

    After Mercedes workers voted against joining the United Automobile Workers, the union will have less momentum as it campaigns to organize Southern factories.After suffering a setback at two Mercedes-Benz plants in Alabama on Friday, the United Automobile Workers union’s efforts to organize other auto factories in the South is likely to slow and could struggle to make headway.About 56 percent of the Mercedes workers who voted rejected the U.A.W. in an election after the union chalked up two major wins this year. In April, workers at a Volkswagen plant in Tennessee voted to join the union, the first large nonunion auto plant in the South to do so. Weeks later, the union negotiated a new contract bringing significant pay and benefit improvements for its members at several North Carolina factories owned by Daimler Truck.“Losing at Mercedes is not death for the union,” said Arthur Wheaton, director of labor studies at Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations. “It just means they’ll have less confidence going to the next plant. The U.A.W. is in it for the long run. I don’t think they’re going to stop just because they lost here.”Since its founding in 1935, the U.A.W. has almost exclusively represented workers employed by the three Michigan-based automakers: General Motors, Ford Motor, and Chrysler, now part of Stellantis. And it has long struggled to make headway at plants owned by foreign manufacturers, especially in Southern states where anti-union sentiment runs deep.Workers at the Volkswagen plant had voted against being represented by the U.A.W. twice by narrow margins before the recent union win there. An effort a decade ago to organize one of the Mercedes plants failed to build enough support for an election.Harley Shaiken, a professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley, noted that broad union organizing efforts seldom proceeded smoothly. In the 1930s, the U.A.W. won recognition at G.M. and Chrysler but struggled at Ford, which continued employing nonunion workers for a few years.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

  • in

    Few Chinese Electric Cars Are Sold in U.S., but Industry Fears a Flood

    Automakers in the United States and their supporters welcomed President Biden’s tariffs, saying they would protect domestic manufacturing and jobs from cheap Chinese vehicles.The Biden administration’s new tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles won’t have a huge immediate impact on American consumers or the car market because very few such cars are sold in the United States.But the decision reflects deep concern within the American automotive industry, which has grown increasingly worried about China’s ability to churn out cheap electric vehicles. American automakers welcomed the decision by the Biden administration on Tuesday to impose a 100 percent tariff on electric vehicles from China, saying those vehicles would undercut billions of dollars of investment in electric vehicle and battery factories in the United States.“Today’s announcement is a necessary response to combat the Chinese government’s unfair trade practices that endanger the future of our auto industry,” Senator Gary Peters, a Michigan Democrat, said in a statement. “It will help level the playing field, keep our auto industry competitive and support good-paying, union jobs here at home.”On Tuesday, President Biden announced a series of new and increased tariffs on certain Chinese-made goods, including a 25 percent duty on steel and aluminum and 50 percent levies on semiconductors and solar panels. The tariff on electric vehicles made in China was quadrupled from 25 percent. Chinese lithium-ion batteries for electric cars will now face a 25 percent tariff, up from 7.5 percent.The United States imports only a few makes — electric or gasoline — from China. One is the Polestar 2, an electric vehicle made in China by a Swedish automaker in which the Chinese company Zhejiang Geely has a controlling stake. In a statement, Polestar said it was evaluating the impact of Mr. Biden’s announcement.“We believe that free trade is essential to speed up the transition to more sustainable mobility through increased E.V. adoption,” the company said.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

  • in

    U.S. Awards $120 Million to Polar Semiconductor to Expand Chip Facility

    The grant is the latest federal award in a series stemming from the CHIPS and Science Act meant to ramp up domestic production of vital semiconductors.Federal officials will provide up to $120 million in grants to Polar Semiconductor to help the company expand its chip manufacturing facility in Minnesota, the Biden administration announced on Monday, the latest in a string of awards meant to strengthen the U.S. supply of semiconductors.Commerce Department officials said the grant would help Polar upgrade technology and double production capacity at its facility in Bloomington, Minn., within two years. The company produces chips that are critical for cars, defense systems and electrical grids, federal officials said.“We are making taxpayer dollars go as far as possible while crowding in private and state investment to create jobs, secure our supply chains and bolster manufacturing in Minnesota,” said Laurie Locascio, the under secretary of commerce for standards and technology.The funding stems from the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act, which lawmakers passed in 2022 to ramp up the domestic production of commercial semiconductors, the tiny chips crucial for most electronics, including smartphones, computers, cars and weapons systems. The law gave the Commerce Department $39 billion to distribute to companies to incentivize the construction and expansion of new plants in the United States.Scaling up domestic chip production is a major component of President Biden’s economic policy agenda, which largely focuses on bolstering American manufacturing and bringing back jobs that have shifted overseas. Only about 10 percent of the world’s semiconductors are produced in the United States, down from about 37 percent in 1990.Biden administration officials have so far announced awards of more than $29 billion. Last month, the Commerce Department announced up to $6.1 billion in grants to Micron to help the chipmaker build plants in New York and Idaho. Other chipmakers — including Samsung, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company and Intel — have received multibillion-dollar awards. GlobalFoundries, Microchip Technology and BAE Systems received the first three federal awards.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

  • in

    Biden to Announce A.I. Center in Wisconsin as Part of Economic Agenda

    The president’s visit will highlight the investment by Microsoft and point to a failed Foxconn project negotiated by Donald J. Trump.President Biden will travel to Wisconsin on Wednesday to announce the creation of an artificial intelligence data center, highlighting one of his administration’s biggest economic accomplishments in a crucial battleground state — and pointing up a significant failure by his immediate predecessor and 2024 challenger.At a technical college in Racine, Mr. Biden will announce that Microsoft will invest $3.3 billion to build the center, which the tech giant estimates will create 2,300 union construction jobs and 2,000 permanent jobs, according to the White House. The project is part of Mr. Biden’s “Investing in America” agenda, which has focused on bringing billions of private-sector dollars into manufacturing and industries such as clean energy and artificial intelligence.In his fourth trip to Wisconsin this year, Mr. Biden will continue an aggressive campaign to paint a contrast between him and former President Donald J. Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, who is in the fourth week of his criminal trial in connection with payments to a pornographic film star. While in Wisconsin, Mr. Biden will also attend a campaign event, where he will speak to Black voters about the stakes in the election.In a fact sheet released by the White House, the administration said that Mr. Biden’s visit to Racine would showcase “a community at the heart of his commitment to invest in places that have been historically overlooked or failed by the last administration’s policies.”The Microsoft data center will be built on grounds where Mr. Trump, as president, announced in 2017 that Foxconn, the Taiwanese electronics manufacturer, would build a $10 billion factory for making LCD panels. The Foxconn factory was supposed to be one of Mr. Trump’s marquee domestic manufacturing victories: the first major factory run by the electronics supplier in Wisconsin, with a promised 13,000 jobs.Instead, the ill-fated project never materialized as promised, even after receiving millions in subsidies and bulldozing homes and farms to build the factory. The company abandoned its plans and produced only a small fraction of the promised jobs, dealing a major blow to Mr. Trump’s pledge to revitalize American manufacturing as well as to Racine, which lost about 1,000 manufacturing jobs during his four years in office. The information issued by the White House ahead of Mr. Biden’s visit said the new data center would add to the more than 4,000 jobs created in Racine since the president took office.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More