Calls to lower ethanol quota rise

Aug. 26, 2012 at 5:20 PM
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LOS ANGELES, Aug. 26 (UPI) -- Lawmakers and activist groups are calling on the U.S. government to lower the ethanol quota in the face of a possible domestic and international food crisis.

Currently, the U.S. renewable fuel standard uses about 40 percent of the nation's corn crop for ethanol production, the Los Angeles Times reported.

However, the widespread drought has killed more than 50 percent of the corn crop this year, driving prices to record levels.

The International Food Policy Research Institute has recommended the United States immediately stop using corn to make ethanol for fuel "to prevent a potential global food price crisis."

"Poor and vulnerable groups in developing countries are hard hit by high and volatile prices of the agricultural commodities they depend on for their primary daily caloric intake," said Shenggen Fan, director general of the think tank, which is based in Washington.

Some 156 members of the House of Representatives and 26 senators wrote letters to the Environmental Protection Agency requesting a temporary waiver of the ethanol quota.

"As stressful weather conditions continue to push corn yields lower and prices upward," the senators wrote, "we ask you to adjust the corn grain-ethanol mandate ... to reflect this natural disaster and these new market conditions. Doing so will help to ease supply concerns and provide relief from high corn prices."

Some people, however, say lowering the corn quota for ethanol production could cause disasters down the road.

"Waiving the federal renewable fuel standard even for one year will produce instability in the program for several years, causing uncertainty for companies investing in advanced biofuels and for farmers growing next-generation energy crops," said Jim Greenwood, chief executive of the Biotechnology Industry Organization.

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