Wendy’s and White Castle Oppose Renewable Fuel Standard

Fast food chains argue that fuel made from crops such as corn inflate food prices and cost them $3.2 billion a year.
Fast food chains argue that fuel made from crops such as corn inflate food prices and cost them $3.2 billion a year.

When you hear about fast food chains lobbying on Capitol Hill, you probably assume that whatever their cause is, it probably doesn’t have much to do with you. This is not one of those times.

Fast food chain, Wendy’s, along with White Castle, headed to Washington, D.C. recently to put their stake in the ground regarding the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The RFS program was created in 2005 under the Energy Policy Act, and established the first renewable fuel volume mandate in the United States.

The chain restaurants, who partnered with their industry’s trade association, the National Council of Chain Restaurants (NCCR), don’t agree with the RFS mandate, and lobbied to repeal it. The group contends that fuel manufactured from corn, soy, and other agricultural crops pushes food and commodity prices up. In addition, if left unchanged, the RFS will cost chain restaurant operators up to $3.2 billion each year the mandate remains in effect. These costs are then passed along the supply chain, impacting farmers and franchise owners, and are eventually transferred to diners and consumers nationwide. In addition to lobbying against the RFS, the group also supports the bipartisan RFS Reform Act, which eliminates corn-based ethanol requirements, among other measures.

On Capitol Hill, the group introduced their initiative, aptly named Feed Food Fairness: Take RFS Off the Menu, with a press conference where White Castle president, Lisa Ingram, and Wendy’s franchise owner, Mark Behm, were joined by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA). Also in attendance were Robert J. Green, executive director of the NCCR, and cattle producer, Steve Foglesong, the former chair of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, who lasered in on the issue when he remarked, “Cattlemen and women are not opposed to renewable fuels, but are seeking a level playing field to compete for a bushel of corn.”

The opponents of the RFS view the mandate as posing a triple threat by impacting the environment, food price inflation, and chain restaurants. During a hearing held earlier this month by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Joel Brandenberger, president of the National Turkey Federation, blamed the RFS for an increase in food prices and a decrease in food sector job creation. Other opponents of the RFS include the state of Florida, where Governor Rick Scott recently signed a bill into law that repeals the state’s Renewable Fuel Standard as of July 1, 2013.

It’s expected that the Supreme Court’s ruling on Monday will impact the chain restaurant industry’s future lobbying efforts to repeal the RFS. The Court sided with ethanol fuel (primarily sourced from corn) and ruled to block the oil and gas industry’s challenge to a high-ethanol blend of gasoline. Other groups that share concerns about fuel made from ethanol are: the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the American Fuel and Petrochemicals Manufacturers, and the Grocery Manufacturers Association. Each of them petitioned the Supreme Court to consider whether enough testing was conducted by the EPA before they permitted the sale of E15, which is a blend of gasoline that contains up to 15 percent ethanol. In August 2012, a lower court said that those groups lacked standing to challenge the EPA decision.

As the Supreme Court hands down landmark rulings this week, it’s hard to predict the fate of the Renewable Fuel Standard Reform Act or the effort to repeal it. It seems clear that neither initiative will be easily resolved, but President Obama’s plan to fight climate change, which he unveiled Tuesday, will likely play a role in the future status of renewable fuels.

[Image Credit: WayTru, Flickr]

Lisa Marie Chirico

Lisa is a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. She is a marketing communications specialist who is focused on pursuing green solutions for our planet’s longevity.

2 responses

  1. While there are many factors that affect food prices, experts agree energy costs from the petroleum market generally play the biggest role. That’s why it’s so critical that we diversify the world’s transportation fuels supply with alternatives. And in the U.S., the country’s first commercially available advanced biofuel, biodiesel, is already playing a critical role in protecting American consumers.

    Livestock producers such as the National Pork Producers Council have long been on record supporting biodiesel production because it reduces livestock costs – which ultimately benefits consumers. Biodiesel produced from soybean crops uses only the excess oil and none of the protein rich meal that is used in livestock feed. As a result, the meal from soy – a staple in animal diets – is less expensive today because of the demand for the natural oil in soy-based biodiesel. Studies suggest that the savings as a result of biodiesel production can be as much as $25 per ton for animal producers that feed soy protein meal.

    And those aren’t the only savings that can be passed onto consumers. Our industry has created a strong new market for animal fats that can be used in biodiesel production, which increases the per-head value of livestock and reduces price pressures on meat and dairy products. Further, not only does biodiesel production reduce feed costs, but because it can also be made from animal fat, our industry provides another revenue stream for livestock producers. In fact, studies show this new revenue stream equates to $10 to $12 per head for beef cattle or as much as $350 million dollars annually across the beef, swine and poultry industries.

    Perhaps most importantly for consumers, biodiesel is creating competition to petroleum by providing diversity in the transportation fuels sector. The fact is that we’re never going to be able to drill our way out of our energy problems.
    Producing more oil at home isn’t going to improve the air we breathe and it’s not going to make us independent of the global events that ultimately determine the cost of a barrel of oil. We recognize that petroleum is priced by an international market. And that’s not going to change whether the oil is pulled out of North Dakota or shipped from Saudi Arabia.

    Jessica Robinson
    National Biodiesel Board

  2. This is actually a pretty hilarious response.

    First of all, corn is not the best source of ethanol, so there are many reasons to propose it not be used in favor of other sources of biofuel. However, the cheapness of junk food and corn-fed beef is hardly a reason to get upset about. With apologies to Wendy’s and White Castle, the world would probably be better off if junk food were not so cheap.

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