Stop requiring the use of corn for fuel
Drought is never good for corn. Drought in July is as bad as it gets.
The Midwest corn crop pollinates in the first weeks of July. No rain means little or no pollination. As a result, fewer kernels form on each ear of corn. Even if the rain were to start falling again — and much more is needed than the storms and showers that reached Illinois recently — yields will be sharply reduced. A big part of the crop already is lost.
The looming shortage has sent prices for corn as well as soybeans to all-time highs at the Chicago Board of Trade. The farm belt is facing its worst disaster since the devastating drought of 1988.
What to do? Pray for rain, of course. But there is one important step that should be taken soon: TheU.S. Environmental Protection Agencyneeds to waive its requirement for using corn-brewed ethanol in U.S. motor fuels.
Under a program called the renewable fuel standard, the EPA requires petroleum blenders to dilute their gasoline with increasing amounts of biofuel each year. This year, the RFS mandate calls for 13.2 billion gallons, nearly all of it corn-derived ethanol. This page has pointed out many times the absurdity of this intervention in the marketplace. Few government programs cost so much and deliver so little benefit to the public.
What makes matters worse in light of the drought is the enormous drain of ethanol production on the corn supply.
In a good growing year, such as 2011, ethanol consumed 40 percent of the U.S. crop. This year, with a disaster unfolding, the amount of corn needed to produce the required amount of fuel very likely would be more than half of what’s eventually harvested.