As a direct result of the worst drought the U.S. has seen since the dust bowl and, consequently, record-low corn yields, the pressure is on for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to waive the nationwide ethanol mandate.
The EPA announced Monday that it will begin weighing requests for a suspension of the mandate, which requires that gasoline contain 10 percent ethanol.
The cost of corn and other crops has skyrocketed as conditions continue to worsen across the Corn Belt. According to the most recent report by the U.S. Drought Monitor, released Aug. 16, 87 percent of the corn-growing areas are experiencing some degree of drought, with more than half of those areas experiencing extreme to exceptional drought.
The crisis has prompted Democratic governors from Maryland, Delaware, North Carolina and Arkansas to join the agricultural industry in a push for a waive of the ethanol mandate.
The mandate was originally implemented to help decrease U.S. reliance on foreign oil. However, with corn in short supply, its use in ethanol is driving up food costs and lowering reserves even further.
"It's mandatory because of the law but it's possible that the government, if they chose to do so, could suspend that or lower the percentage to 7%, and that probably would relieve the pressure dramatically," Jim Dunn, Professor of Agricultural Economics at Penn State University, said in an AccuWeather interview last month.
Though the government has never before altered this mandate, the Congress and Senate are very well aware of the looming crisis, Dunn said.
Thus far, the Obama administration has not taken steps to waive the mandate, despite recent efforts to aid the farming industry.
On Aug. 13, Obama announced that the USDA would purchase $170 million of pork, lamb, chicken and catfish to help drought-stricken farmers recover from this year's agricultural devastation and to counter the high cost of animal feed.
"The purchases will help mitigate further downward prices, stabilize market conditions and provide high quality, nutritious food to recipients of USDA nutrition programs," Tom Vilsack, Agriculture Secretary, said in a statement.
The EPA is gathering public comment on the need for a waiver for 30 days, while asking petitioners to demonstrate that the mandate is causing severe economic harm. The agency has until Nov. 13 to make a decision on the waivers.
As temperatures rise through the weekend in the South, so will the risk for heat-related dangers.
While heavy rainfall inundated the Phoenix area with historic flooding, deadly landslides occurred in Japan, claiming dozens of lives.
While a tropical low is expected to brew into Tropical Storm Cristobal this weekend, the East Coast of the U.S. is being monitored for future impacts -- even if the storm remains well offshore.
United States residents may pay higher heating costs this fall as colder air is expected to grip the Rockies and Plains at times and some quick-hitting chilly shots may impact the Northeast.
A swath of soaking rain will slowly shift from the northern Plains to the Canadian Prairies this weekend, making people reach for their umbrellas and heightening concerns for flooding.
While residents will face more disruptions to outdoor activities on Saturday, dry air will push southward across Pittsburgh to end the weekend.
Dry thunderstorms ignited more than 100 fires in the Wenatchee and Okanogan National Forests.
Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX (1980)
105 degrees -- the 60th consecutive day with a high temperature of at least 100 degrees.
Lake Ontario (1987)
Strong northwesterly winds caused upwelling. On the south shore, the water temperature was 70 degrees, but along the north shore, it was only 41 degrees.