Fast Food Industry Serves Congress More Supersized Lies About Renewable Fuels

February 26, 2015

Jeremy Funk, 202-470-5878
Blake Williams, 407-902-7399

Fast Food Industry Serves Up Congress More Supersized Lies About Renewable Fuels

Washington DC – What’s on the menu for Congress this week?  Whoppers about the Renewable Fuel Standard’s role in rising food prices with a side of lies about its environmental impact, served up by the Fast Food Industry.

According to Politico, “The National Council of Chain Restaurants … hosted a fly-in [Wednesday], calling for action on the Renewable Fuel Standard. Franchisees and executives from Wendy’s, TGI Friday’s, White Castle and other restaurant brands met with lawmakers about the need to repeal the RFS and the corn ethanol mandate. NCCR leads a food retail coalition known as “RFS Off the Menu” which is asking Congress to act on RFS legislation this year.”

“After spending $2.5 million lobbying last year alone, Big Grease is back roaming the halls of Congress to unthaw an unhealthy debate about renewable fuels based on lies,” said Jeremy Funk, Communications Director, Americans United for Change, the pro-renewable fuels, pro-environment group behind “They’re once again trying to mislead lawmakers that the RFS is to blame for rising food prices and carbon pollution, but when it comes to proving it, the beef is nowhere to be found. The fact is the World Bank and a number of leading ag academics and economists have studied renewable fuels’ impact on food prices at the grocery store extensively and concluded there simply isn’t one.  The fact is renewable fuels are made from inedible corn, corn cobs, corn stalks and wood chips – not the corn you buy at the store. The fact is the World Bank found crude oil prices were responsible for over 50 percent of the increase in food prices since 2004.   Instead of entrusting America’s energy policy to White Castle, we should be listening to the scientists at Argonne National Laboratory – who found that corn ethanol cuts carbon pollution by 34% compared to gasoline. Why Big Food is doing this is obvious: to supersize their profits. The so-called “RFS Off the Menu” campaign is nothing but a ruse for Big Grease to deflect blame for high food prices from themselves and their partners in greed: Big Oil.  Big Oil and Big Grease have formed an alliance towards the common goal of keeping prices, and therefore profits, high. Big Food desperately wants a scape goat so they don’t have to pass any of their record profits onto consumers by simply lowering prices themselves.  

Bottom line: American energy policy should not be decided by White Castle.  If you think you feel sick after eating their burgers, imagine what will happen if we put them in charge of our air quality.”

Inconvenient Facts for Big Food to Swallow [via MMFA]:

FACT: Ethanol Production Does Not Divert Food Or Raise Prices 

recent study commissioned by the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) examined the impacts of ethanol policies, including the RFS and now-defunct blender’s tax credit, on world crop prices in the 2005-2010 timeframe. Using a partial equilibrium economic model, the study found corn prices in 2009/10 wouldn’t have been any different at all with or without the RFS in place. Corn prices would have been just 3.3% lower, on average, in the entire five-year study period without the RFS and ethanol blender’s tax credit, the study found. The effect of the RFS and other ethanol-related policies on other crops is even less…The Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD), Food and Agriculture Policy Research Institute (FAPRI), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Michigan State University, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) are among the many other organizations that have similarly concluded the RFS has had only modest impacts on crop prices and no meaningful impact on retail-level food prices.” : RFA

Only One Percent Of Corn Grown In U.S. Eaten By Humans. Wired published a post by an Argonne National Laboratory researcher that pointed out that the type of corn grown for ethanol is inedible to humans -- instead, it is primarily used for animal feed. The post also stated that some types of biofuels can be grown on marginal lands that wouldn't support other commodities, concluding that it is possible to "produce food and fuels":

Only 1 percent of all corn grown in this country is eaten by humans. The rest is No. 2 yellow field corn, which is indigestible to humans and used in animal feed, food supplements and ethanol.

Specifically, a bushel of corn used for ethanol produces 1.5 pounds of corn oil, 17.5 pounds of high-protein feed called DDGS, 2.6 pounds of corn meal and 31.5 pounds of starch. The starch can be converted to sweeteners or used to produce 2.8 gallons of ethanol. DDGS displaces whole corn and some soybeans traditionally used in animal feed. The United States is a large exporter of DDGS to China and other countries.


Taken together, the increase in crop yield and the use of marginal lands can enable us to produce food and fuels. [Wired6/23/11]

World Bank: Crude Oil Prices Are The Primary Driver Of Food Prices. The World Bank released a paper in 2013 finding that crude oil prices have the greatest long-term effect on food prices, with biofuel production responsible for only secondary effects:

This paper examines the relative contribution of various sector and macroeconomic drivers to price changes of five food commodities (maize, wheat, rice, soybeans, and palm oil) by applying a reduced-form econometric model on 1960-2012 annual data.


It concludes that most of the price increases are accounted for by crude oil prices (more than 50 percent), followed by stock-to-use ratios and exchange rate movements, which are estimated at about 15 percent each. Crude oil prices mattered most during the recent boom period because they experienced the largest increase. [World Bank, 5/13]

FACT: Ethanol Emits Less Pollution, Is Better For Climate Than Conventional Fuel

Corn-Based Ethanol Produces Less Greenhouse Gas Emissions Over Full Life Cycle. A 2012 study by the Argonne National Laboratory conducted a life cycle analysis, which assesses the environmental impacts of all stages of a product's usage from extraction to disposal, and found that renewable fuels ultimately have a lower environmental impact than conventional fuels. The study determined that corn-based ethanol has achieved a lower climate change impact than gasoline, with emission reductions of up to 48 percent. Green Car Congress quoted from the study:

Bioethanol is the biofuel that is produced and consumed the most globally. The US is the dominant producer of corn-based ethanol, and Brazil is the dominant producer of sugarcane-based ethanol. Advances in technology and the resulting improved productivity in corn and sugarcane farming and ethanol conversion, together with biofuel policies, have contributed to the significantly expanded production of both types of ethanol in the past 20 years. These advances and improvements have helped bioethanol achieve increased energy and GHG emission benefits when compared with those of petroleum gasoline. [Green Car Congress, 1/22/13]

And Cellulosic Ethanol Is Even Better, Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions Up To 95 Percent. The Argonne Lab study further found that cellulosic ethanol, a type of fuel made from grasses or agricultural waste such as corn stalks, achieves the "greatest energy and GHG emission benefits" out of all the biofuels included in their study. The report analyzed cellulosic ethanol made from corn stover, switchgrass, and miscanthus and found that the resulting ethanol can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 95 percent:

[Green Car Congress, 1/22/13]