The Hall of Legislative Curiosities: Food or Fuel?

May 5, 2014

We’re back at it…examining a few of most puzzling components of America’s ethanol mandate in part two of our video series, The Hall of Legislative Curiosities

Today’s topic: What happens when you use the world’s breadbasket to feed cars, not people? No surprise here: Less land for food means higher prices for you.

When Congress passed the Renewable Fuel Standard, ethanol proponents dismissed concerns that a massive diversion of food to fuel would hurt the poorest among us. And yet, today, the rising costs of food have added significant costs to the federal food stamp program and even put school lunches for hungry kids at risk – meaning the US is spending more money to merely tread water in the fight against hunger.

In 2011, the United States turned enough corn to feed 570 million people into fuel. To put this in perspective, if all of these people lived in one country, it would be the third most populous in the world—larger than the United States. Only India and China would have more mouths to feed.

And it’s not just impacting people abroad: By increasing the competition for land and the price of corn, the ethanol mandate has unintentionally been driving up the cost at the grocery store. By 2022, the RFS will increase food costs for Americans by $3 billion—annually—according to the Congressional Research Service.

And still, Congress has failed to take action, leaving the EPA to rejigger the final numbers every year, causing more uncertainty for both farmers and refiners, causing food prices to fluctuate even more.

Tell Congress that ethanol failed you and we need a long-term solution.