There's one more reason why a higher ethanol-blend requirement is a hot-button issue: drought.

Farmers and farming advocates are asking the Environmental Protection Agency to ease up on ethanol requirements for the U.S. fuel mix because drought conditions through much of the country are causing corn prices to spike, NBC News reports.

Livestock producers and cattlemen who use corn for feed say that ethanol requirements are exacerbating the recent jump in corn prices, have surged as much as 60 percent in recent weeks due to the drought. With that in mind, the EPA is in discussions with the USDA and is watching crop estimates, but has not yet taken any action on the biofuel requirement.

Even before the skies decided to stop dropping enough water, the idea of boosting ethanol-mix requirements has been a controversial one. Opponents say higher ethanol mixes haven't been adequately tested and may damage engines. Proponents say more ethanol use may cut pollution and will reduce dependency on foreign oil. The EPA officially approved the public sale of E15 – gasoline mixed with 15 percent ethanol – in June.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 21 Comments
      • 2 Years Ago
      The article at the link below is a must read before any serious discussion on ethanol. On petition to EPA to end ethanol mandate by meat producers, it does make sense that ending ethanol production will not result in a significant lowering of corn prices because excess corn has already been turned into ethanol, which of course is what the industry is saying, that there should be no need for concern because they have 800 millions gallons of it stored away,, normally that 800 million gallons of ethanol would be our corn stores for when we have a bad drought,, so instead of having a large amount of grain stores after a good year to help get us through hard times, we have a large amount of ethanol instead,, 800 million gallons, that's a heck of a lot of ethanol, it's as if they saw this drought coming and thought "hmm, a bad drought might mean starving people around the world and high food prices here at home,, that could spell trouble for the ethanol industry, perhaps we should buy the worlds corn supplies now and turn it into ethanol, then store it, I mean we can always turn corn into ethanol but they can't turn ethanol back into food " http://www.stgeorgeutah.com/news/archive/2012/05/04/op-ed-counterpoint-to-analysis-gas-mileage-going-down/
      Fgergergrergr
      • 2 Years Ago
      I thought cattle were supposed to eat grass? You guys must have different cattle in Merica!
        PR
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Fgergergrergr
        Same cattle, different feeding practices. We artificially shorten the growth cycle of our cattle by using sub-clinical doses of antibiotics, and by having them gorge on corn towards the end of their lives. The sub-clinical doses of antibiotics are too low of a dose to actually work as an antibiotic and kill anything like a normal dose of antibiotics. But these low doses have the side affect of quicker weight gain. Cattle that primarily eat grass and hay while in pasture are given a diet heavy in corn and other dense grains in order to gain weight before slaughter. The diet is so unnatural that it would have catastrophic health impacts if feed to cattle over the long term. But since they are headed to slaughter, they are most often killed before this becomes a problem. With all this fun stuff, we can take a calf and take it to slaughter at full maturity in as little as 18 months, compared to other parts of the world it may take 3 years to fully mature and "finish" cattle for slaughter. Some folks think that is a good thing?
          EZEE
          • 2 Years Ago
          @PR
          ( homer voice) mmmmmmm, sub clinical doses of anti-biotics in my beef......(drooling) Actually, I spend extra for grass fed organic beef. I just had a good comedy bit I had to use.... Quite understandable....
          EVnerdGene
          • 2 Years Ago
          @PR
          eating corn-beef with pumped with anti-biotics ? long-term problems we haven't figured yet ? Like DDT, MTBE, even atomic radiation. Skip the corn-fed beef, and the corn ethanol. I think I'll just have a corn burger. Grilled corn on the cob; with real butter from grass fed cows. Yum !!!
      • 2 Years Ago
      Bill Clinton, Al Gore & Senator Obama supported the California 2006 Prop. 87, a GMO corn ethanol welfare program. Bill, Al, have changed opinion on the ethanol mandate, I wonder if California will make this the time for CHANGE? I support a waiver of the ethanol mandate, voluntary use of ethanol in my gas. Federal ethanol policy increases Government motors oil use and Big oil profit. It is reported that today California is using Brazil sugar cane ethanol at $0.16 per gal increase over using GMO corn fuel ethanol. In this game the cars and trucks get to pay and Big oil profits are the result that may be ready for change. We do NOT support AB 523 or SB 1396 unless the ethanol mandate is changed to voluntary ethanol in our gas. Folks that pay more at the pump for less from Cars, trucks, food, water & air need better, it is time. The car tax of AB 118 Nunez is just a simple Big oil welfare program, AAA questioned the policy and some folks still agree. AB 523 & SB 1326 are just a short put (waiver) from better results. GOOGLE: Prop 87 (510) 537-1796
      Marcopolo
      • 2 Years Ago
      Droughts, floods, pestilence, early frost, late frost, blight, hurricanes, cyclones, tornado, soil depletion, poor markets, oversupply, high fuel costs, increases in the price of fertilizer, loneliness, backbreaking toil, and a myriad of other problems, are all part of the tribulations faced by farmers. This is why agricultural crops are mostly unsuitable for fuel production. Except in rare circumstances, the economics of producing fuel from agriculture is unsustainable without massive government subsidies. But even with subsidies, bio-fuels can only make a small contribution to eke out road transport fuel. Supply will always be unreliable, since bio-fuel is subject to the vagaries of agriculture for it's feed stock. The argument that billions of dollars of taxpayer's money should be invested each year in an industry that producing uneconomic feedstock is folly. The idea of mandating the use of an uneconomic product to prevent the collapse of a commercially nonviable industry, simply to please ethanol fans, or producers, is a decision for taxpayers, as voters, to decide.
      mapoftazifosho
      • 2 Years Ago
      Where's Carney? I needs me some Carney lunacy!
        2 Wheeled Menace
        • 2 Years Ago
        @mapoftazifosho
        ^--- Whoever downrated this man must defeat me in hand to hand combat. I'd love to see Carney come out here and blow a headgasket over this article ;D
          EZEE
          • 2 Years Ago
          @2 Wheeled Menace
          I up voted both of you two because dag gum it, it isn't the same without the fuel cell loving bio ethanol blah blah light weight and aero sh*t in here.
      brotherkenny4
      • 2 Years Ago
      On the other hand, corn farmers who are able to get some crop, or irrigate or who have stores from previous seasons will receive a very good price for their corn. Then also, to date there would have been no expectation for crop from this year to be in the product pipeline yet. In all years there are farmers, who due to the weather, do less well than others. The drought is a spectacular story for the press. If it wasn't horrendous it wouldn't be much of a story. Opposition to any industry will take advantage of a perceived issue regardless of the true severity of that issue. Let's just wait and see what the actual crop amounts to. Grass raised beef is better anyway.
        EVnerdGene
        • 2 Years Ago
        @brotherkenny4
        "grass raised beef is better" Yes, that's the natural way. Corn fed cattle have to be pumped full of anti-biotics to keep them from getting sick if on a corn diet. (not an authoritative source of course; but see the movie Food, Inc. --- on an empty stomach) Corn is also not a very efficient way for making ethanol (sugar cane ethanol - Brazilian ethanol production actually makes economic sense)
      goodoldgorr
      • 2 Years Ago
      Ethanol is crap.
        Marcopolo
        • 2 Years Ago
        @goodoldgorr
        goodoldgorr Whatever, the validity your comment may contain, the brevity of your message is improving !
          EZEE
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Marcopolo
          I thought Gorr was an ethanol person. Just fuel cells?
      2 Wheeled Menace
      • 2 Years Ago
      As a country, i think it is highly screwed up that we put gasoline/ethanol above food/water.. I think only the endgame of peak oil will stop it.
      Julius
      • 2 Years Ago
      And to think - I got downvoted for suggesting that increasing corn ethanol production would have an impact on food prices... http://green.autoblog.com/2012/06/19/epa-officially-approves-e15-for-sale-in-u-s/
        PR
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Julius
        Right, because it is all those massive number of gallons of E15 that we've been selling over the last few months that is the real problem, not that glaringly obvious huge drought that is the problem. Our production of corn ethanol has actually given us a great buffer for us to play with. Our corn shortages will have much less impact overall because corn ethanol plants are able to temporarily reduce ethanol production, or temporarily close plants to temper our feed corn shortages, like what is happening right now: "Valero Energy Corp., one of the largest U.S. ethanol producers, temporarily closed two of its 10 plants. Several other ethanol mills have been idled or curtailed production." http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-07-10/business/ct-biz-0708-ethanol-20120708_1_weak-ethanol-margins-ethanol-prices-ethanol-producers "Almost two-thirds of bankers report cutback or closing of ethanol/biodiesel plants due to drought." Our corn ethanol industry is working as a safety valve. Not too shocking, since that is a major part of our entire corn ethanol policy dating back 4 decades. Our solution to massive over-supplies of corn that were being just left to rot, was to use that corn for energy. The idea was that if there were a true disaster such as we are seeing now, this corn could then be redirected towards food as a buffer to head off starvation. We are very, very far from people starving due to this current natural disaster. As long as huge isles of corn syrup filled sodas are still fully stocked on grocery shelves, we are far from that point. But the safety valve is already working.
          PR
          • 2 Years Ago
          @PR
          Julius - First off, I absolutely agree with folks calling for a temporary waiver of ethanol blending requirements in the short term IF the whole year's crop estimates drop too low. And the USDA is watching the crop numbers for the same reason. Keep in mind that the latest estimate by the head of the USDA is that we are still on target for the 3rd largest corn crop ever. (I've posted the link to that a number of times, ibid). But you are having a problem with conflating price rises caused by producing ethanol, and price rises caused by the drought. The price rises we are seeing are caused by the drought. Had there been no drought, these price rises wouldn't be happening now. Luckily, we have this awesome "Strategic Reserve" of corn we can tap IF we have to. Some of that has already started, as I posted above. You have to realize that all of this happens in MUCH larger timeframes than you might expect. This isn't like sweet corn coming straight off the field and being sold the same day at a farmer's market. This will take over a year to play out.
          Julius
          • 2 Years Ago
          @PR
          Simple point - if ethanol production does not impact food prices, then why are the CATTLE FARMERS asking to stop the increase? And why would the ethanol industry need to act as a "buffer for us to play with", when your last argument posited that ethanol had NO impact on corn feed prices? Oh, and I'd also argue that Valero really thinks of itself as a "buffer for corn production" - especially when the industry still is operating under a politically-driven government mandate - which by the article YOU quoted - is REQUIRED to increase production this year and next, despite unfavorable feedstock prices and potentially low demand.
          Julius
          • 2 Years Ago
          @PR
          Oh, and P.S.: I'm not the only one that's thinking this: "The price of corn is a critical variable in the world food equation, and food markets are on edge because American corn supplies are plummeting. The combination of the drought and American ethanol policy will lead in many parts of the world to widespread inflation, more hunger, less food security, slower economic growth and political instability, especially in poor countries." - http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/31/opinion/corn-for-food-not-fuel.html "The use of corn to make ethanol in the U.S. is helping to lift the grain price worldwide, said Jose Graziano da Silva, the new director general of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization. “FAO has been raising its voice against using food to produce bio energy,” Graziano da Silva told 64 agriculture ministers in Berlin yesterday. That’s “especially” the case for corn in the U.S. and oilseeds in Europe, he said." - http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-01-21/use-of-corn-for-fuel-in-u-s-is-increasing-prices-globally-fao-chief-says.html "We need to move to more market-driven biofuels policies, not inflexible mandates, subsidies and tariffs," Page wrote in an opinion piece in The Washington Post. "Where such mandates exist, we need to carefully consider using mechanisms to lift them or ease them in times of market stress." - http://in.reuters.com/article/2012/08/03/usa-ethanol-cargill-idINL2E8J3AJM20120803
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