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 new tropical threat may loom for the Caribbean and North America in the not-too-distant future, while eight more weeks remain in the Atlantic hurricane season.
The greatest danger of flooding across the central United States will unfold in western Texas, where downpours will be most persistent into Monday.
Fall air has finally arrived in the northeastern United States and may yield the first frost of the season in parts of the region this weekend.
Typhoon Megi will continue to strengthen before threatening lives and property across Taiwan and eastern China this week.
The first windstorm of the season could blast the northern United Kingdom around Tuesday of this coming week as Karl arrives.
Hot, dry and windy weather into Monday will lead to an increased risk of wildfires across Southern California.
College Park, MD ()
Tornado causes damage to buildings on Univ. of MD campus. 2 people were killed.
SC, GA & N FL (1888)
Southern frost, earliest frost ever so far south.
Yellowstone, MT (1926)
Minus 9 degrees F., lowest for U.S. in September. Severe widespread frost with great crop destruction. Earliest snow in Spokane Co., Washington.