Earnings season has begun, and Alcoa's report gives us a nice lesson in public-policy profiteering and regulatory robbery.
The typical news story on an environmental debate fulfills that MSM commandment of "quoting both sides" by pitting some greenie -- maybe a spokesman for GreenPeace or the Natural Resources Defense Council -- against a coal lobbyist or an oil executive. The implication is clear: the polar bears want more government, Big Business wants less government. But that's false.
I've been writing for years how Alcoa, which is very politically connected, had lobbied for heightened fuel-efficiency mandates, how those mandates would profit Alcoa in a way that would hurt consumers. Alcoa is also a member of the of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP), which lobbies for federal limits on greenhouse-gas emissions.
Now, Alcoa reports "it expected sales to improve with the growing popularity of fuel-efficient vehicles and sustainable products made with aluminum," as the New York Times puts it. But "popularity" is a bit misleading. Fuel-efficient vehicles and "sustainable products" are "popular" largely in the way paying your taxes are "popular": the government makes you do it.
Alcoa CEO Klaus Kleinfeld, however, made the point more directly:
Our markets are gradually improving and both policy trends and consumer sentiment bode well for aluminum demand. Just a few days ago, the U.S. finalized new rules that require increased fuel efficiency and for the first time set greenhouse gas emissions standards for cars and light trucks. [emphasis added]
Of course, aluminum car frames are more expensive, which means you're paying more for your car for a feature -- an aluminum frame -- you wouldn't have paid extra for, if Uncle Sam wasn't twisting your arm.