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Renewable fuel relief

"Renewable fuel relief" Continued...

The EPA has never granted a waiver to the current version of the Renewable Fuel Standard since it went into effect five years ago. The only other time anyone petitioned the EPA to waive the quota was in April 2008, when Texas governor Rick Perry asked for a partial waiver on behalf of his state's livestock owners. The agency denied Perry's request.

Federal law explicitly allows the EPA to waive the renewable fuel quota in emergency situations, but there's no hint that the agency is currently inclined to do so. Agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack also said recently that he doesn't want to see the quota lowered.

"The whole waiver process, if not enacted now, has to be put into question," said John Burkel, vice chairman of the National Turkey Federation, one of the petitioners. Burkel told Reuters: "If we are not going to do this now, in a historic drought year, then when?"

It's unlikely the EPA will make a decision on the petition before fall, when it will have a better picture of the overall 2012 harvest. Hurt suspects the agency won't act until after the November election as a way of avoiding political repercussions. Its ruling on the biofuel mandate is likely to anger one interest group or another: Either ethanol and corn producers, who profit from the biofuel program, or livestock producers and consumers, who are paying for more expensive corn in the form of feed, groceries, gasoline, and taxpayer-subsidized crop insurance.

"These are billions of dollars that [will] float back and forth depending on what the government decides," Hurt said.

Daniel James Devine
Daniel James Devine

Daniel is a reporter for WORLD who covers science, technology, and other topics in the Midwest from his home base in Indiana. Follow Daniel on Twitter @DanJamDevine.

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