Four states have asked the EPA to waive the renewable fuels standard that forces the nation to generate more corn-based ethanol at a time of significant drought and a corn shortage. The states all have Democratic Governors, though two of them come from the South.

The worst drought in 50 years has sent corn prices to record levels, straining meat and dairy producers that use the grain as feed. Governors Mike Beebe from Arkansas and Beverly Purdue from North Carolina sent the requests in letters to the Environmental Protection Agency [...]

The Renewable Fuels Standard, or RFS, which requires 13.2 billion gallons of ethanol to be made from corn this year “has imposed severe economic harm to my state’s swine, poultry, dairy and cattle producing regions,” said the letter from Purdue to EPA head Lisa Jackson.

The Obama campaign has responded by saying that the President is a strong supporter of ethanol as a driver of the economy. The President was speaking in Iowa at the time. But even if you support ethanol – and studies show the corn-based version costs us more in energy to harvest than it’s worth – you cannot deny the economic harm created by the mandate at this time, given the drought conditions. The price spikes have caused a severe hardship for livestock producers in particular who use corn to feed their animals. The head of the UN’s food program, Jose Graziano da Silva, also called for a suspension of the ethanol mandate.

Refiners say they would purchase ethanol regardless of the mandate because they need it to meet clean-fuel requirements in most states. So there’s an argument to make here. But continuing a program that mandates the production of specifically corn-based ethanol at this time borders on the obscene. Maybe a preference could be given to non-corn sources of energy?

In a far better energy development today, the FAA approved the Cape Wind project, the first large-scale offshore wind farm project in the United States.