Going “green” is no longer about planting a tree or learning about conservation as much as it’s about lobbying for government policy. That’s because, frankly, government policy is where the money is — as aluminum giant Alcoa made clear in its latest quarterly report.
Alcoa reported that it will profit from new federal environmental regulations for which it lobbied. These regulations will drive up consumer costs and probably hurt the environment. But if you oppose the Alcoa-Obama agenda, you’ll be tarred as some sort of industry shill.
President Barack Obama’s mode of operation is this: (1) Shoot bellicose words at the “special interests” and slurring any who oppose his government expansion as Big Business shills. (2) Turn around and work hand-in-hand with those very same powerful lobbyists to craft big-government legislation. (3) Take money and liberty from regular people in the name of “reform” and give it to the well-connected.
Democrats and environmental activists paint their push for subsidies, mandates, taxes, and regulations as a battle pitting oil companies against polar bears — as if all the profit is on the anti-regulation side. Alcoa knows better, and the company’s quarterly profit report shows it.
Alcoa has repeatedly supported stricter Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards and is a member of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, a lobby for restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions. These policies act as energy taxes — effectively taxing the weight of a car.
Absent such regulations, an aluminum car frame is much more expensive than a steel car frame. With these regulations, aluminum, which is lighter, becomes more desirable.
So what’s the problem? Alcoa is getting rich, but more people are driving lighter-weight, more efficient cars, right? Industry and the Earth both win, right? Hardly.
Making aluminum car frames requires more energy than making steel car frames. One stage in the process — dissolving the alumina to get pure aluminum — inherently gives off carbon dioxide and the far more potent greenhouse gasses hexafluoroethane and tetrafluoromethane.
But Alcoa makes its aluminum in Australia, where Washington’s CAFE and climate policies can’t touch it. Down Under, naturally, Alcoa’s lobbying agenda isn’t nearly so green.
So Alcoa’s green agenda not only costs consumers more, but it also leads to more greenhouse-gas emissions and more coal being burned — and those who oppose this agenda are demonized for selling out the planet. Turns out, under Obama, it is pretty easy being green.
Timothy P. Carney is the Washington Examiner’s lobbying editor.