Washington Times: EDITORIAL: Ethanol’s unhappy meal

December 11, 2012

Efforts of lawmakers to buy votes in midwestern states are hitting taxpayers in the wallet. A report by the accounting firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) last month calculated the full impact of the congressional directive pouring ethanol into the gas tanks of Americans. This crony capitalist corn scheme drives up prices not just at the pump but at the drive-through as well.

The analysis commissioned by the National Council of Chain Restaurants concluded the federal government’s Renewable Fuel Standard would increase the cost of eating out by $3.2 billion every year. Under this mandate adopted in 2005, an arbitrary and increasing amount of ethanol must be sold each year. It’s a policy guaranteeing a windfall for suppliers of the corn used to make this unnecessary fuel additive.

For 2015, these agribusiness giants will sell an extra 6 billion gallons of their product, not because Americans want it, but because Uncle Sam says so. To meet the increasing — and artificial — demand, farmers must shift production away from crops that put food on the table or feed livestock. This comes at a cost.

The green eyeshades figure that the reallocation of farming resources will drive up the cost of corn by 27 percent, pork 15 percent, potatoes 13 percent, beef 8 percent and eggs 11 percent. This means items on the supermarket shelves become less affordable. The cost of french fries, Big Macs and Egg McMuffins also goes up.

An average fast-food restaurant spends about $180,000 a year on livestock and poultry products. For an industry that, for example, buys 2.3 billion pounds of potatoes each year, even a price shift measured in pennies hits the bottom line hard. Such an increase could prove fatal for family-owned restaurants already struggling in this economy.