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 storm will bring snow and ice that will lead to slippery travel along a 1,500-mile swath from northern Arkansas and Georgia to Maine early next week.
The coldest air of the winter will plunge southward across much of the eastern United States and will feature single-digit and sub-zero temperatures in the Northeast during Valentine's Day weekend.
A blast of arctic air will be accompanied by flurries and even a localized wall of snow in some communities in the Northeast and parts of the Midwest at the start of the Valentine's Day weekend.
Heavy rain will raise the risk of flooding across more than a dozen states in the Southeast on Presidents Day to the East Coast on Tuesday.
The dry, summerlike heat sweeping Southern California will continue through the weekend into early next week.
Umbrellas will be needed on Valentine's Day as scattered showers overspread Germany.
Southern Calif. (1992)
A 2 day rainstorm brought flooding and mudslides to the area. 12.53" of rain fall at Woodland Hills.
Cherry Hill, NJ (1999)
An F1 tornado causes significant damage to 10-15 homes.
San Francisco, CA (2001)
High only 44 degrees, record low maximum for date.