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.
A developing tropical storm, moving just north of the large islands of the Caribbean, will take aim at the Bahamas and southern Florida into this weekend.
Regions dealing with Zika-carrying mosquitoes could have another threat to monitor as tropical activity picks up this season.
A deadly earthquake struck central Italy at 3:36 a.m. local time on Wednesday with tremors felt as far away as the capital city of Rome.
Multiple tornadoes touched down across Indiana and Ohio on Wednesday, one of which flattened a Starbucks in the town of Kokomo, Indiana.
Showers threaten to put a damper on some festivities during the late summer bank holiday, especially early in the weekend.
Thunderstorms with the risk of locally severe weather will extend from the central Plains to the eastern Great Lakes into Thursday evening.
10 degrees in Bowen, coldest August temperature ever in United States.
Philadelphia, PA (1972)
Last of 25 straight days without measurable rain.
Sturtevant, IN (2001)
A tornado 3 miles north-northwest of town. The tornado destroyed a hay barn with a horse trailer pushed out the back of the barn. A power pole was snapped off and wires were downed near Old Highway 11. A speed trailer near Highway 11 and I-94 was destroyed. Large barricades were lifted from the south side of Highway 11 and moved to the north side. Total losses exceeded $30,000. The path length of the tornado was 3 miles.