This year's drought hurt corn production, and Governor Mike Beebe joined governors from several other states to ask for a renewable fuel standard waiver, stating it would hurt agricultural production.
Congressman Steve Womack also supported the request, and he responded to the EPA decision Monday morning.
"In August, I sent a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson with 155 of my House colleagues asking for immediate relief from the government's ethanol production mandate," Womack says in a release. "On Friday, the EPA denied that request, citing a lack of "severe economic harm" to justify such a decision, despite evidence to the contrary. When an agency fails to act, Congress must, and while disappointing, this decision made clear the need for Congress to reevaluate the Renewable Fuels Standard."
The increased cost will show up on the shelves, with minor increases in the cost of products that use corn, but livestock producers will see more of an impact.
"When corn prices go to seven or eight dollars a bushel as they have this fall, that price gets directly translated into the cost of the feed for the poultry industry," he says. "The cost of grain to the consumer is a relatively small portion of the overall cost of the box of cereal or the cost of bread. In reality, the cost to the consumer because of this decision should be relatively small."
Halbrook believes even without the mandates, ethanol would be in demand.
"The petroleum industry has become somewhat dependent upon ethanol as an extender for transportation fuels," he says. "My suspicion is, even if we had a lessening of the requirements that the petroleum industry would probably continue to buy ethanol to put into their products."
It's becoming more difficult to find ethanol-free gas at the pump, but Michael Murphree, shop manager and lead technician at Fayetteville's Grease Pig says for some drivers, finding and frequenting stations with 100 percent gas could pay off in the long run.
"Everybody runs it in their cars because there's nothing that tells you not to, and it's so hard to find gas without it," he says. "They don't think about it being corrosive, they don't think about it hurting rubber, the seals the lines the metal."
Murphree says it's okay to burn ethanol in newer cars, thanks to upgraded metal and rubber parts, but the corn-based fuel could cause trouble in vehicles six years or older.
"The fuel systems, the metals, aren't really designed to handle it," he says. "I'm not saying you're going to run four tanks of gas through your car and you're going to have a problem. I mean, it takes a lot of time, years for it to affect anything. If you plan on having a car for ten or fifteen years, you might make the effort to look for fuel that doesn't have it."
Murphree says ethanol fuel has some advantages over gasoline, but it isn't as efficient.
"It costs less, it's clean, but you use more of it to get the same power, therefore you use more of it to go the same distance," he says. "In most situations it works out where you save a little money, but if you do a lot of around town driving, a lot of short trips it'd be a lot less than say if you went out on the highway."
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