There’s an old saying, supposedly (but not verifiably) based on an old Chinese adage, that says, in effect, that living in interesting times is far more a curse than a blessing. Regardless of your opinion of the current political situation in the United States, we are certainly living in interesting times — blessing, curse, or otherwise.
Recently, President Trump laid out an executive order that looked specifically at aluminum imports and their effect on national security. The worry, according to the administration, is that American aluminum production isn’t sufficient to meet military needs in the case of a major conflict, and therefore, imports should be scaled back to make room for domestic growth. This might seem distant and somewhat unrelated to the world of craft beer, until one considers the implications that these restrictions might have on the production of cans used for beer.
The vast majority of aluminum used for non-military consumer products (like beer cans) is imported, and high tariffs, restrictions, or tension could spike prices and force brewers to raise prices or cut production to cope. Beer production, from both big-name and micro-brews alike, boasts almost 2 billion dollars of economic impact in Colorado and employs thousands of people across the state. Any kind of dramatic shift in the cost of production could seriously damage the industry, especially to the up-and-coming small breweries that often run very tight budgets.
In response, a group of legislators, including both Colorado senators, Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet, and Colorado representative Mike Hoffman sent a letter to the Trump Administration asking them to exclude the type of sheet aluminum typically used in food and beverage goods from the study. They note that most of this type of aluminum is sourced from Canada — a country we’re not likely to go to war with anytime soon — and has no real relevance to national security. Additionally, the letter notes that domestic production simply cannot meet the demand for this type of aluminum.
Many economists have noted that the link between aluminum imports and national security is a stretch — at best. In reality, this move is primarily political: cutting imports and boosting domestic reliability has long been a staple of Trump policy. Politically, it is telling that Senator Cory Gardner, one of the few Republican Senators from a state that Trump lost in 2016, has chosen to stand with his state over the interests of a Republican president.
All that said, the administration set a deadline for itself to complete its review, and it seems unlikely that the date will actually be reached. What the future holds for aluminum imports — and its effects on the Colorado beer industry and Colorado politics — remains uncertain, though it seems very likely that we will continue to be cursed or blessed with its inevitable twists and turns.