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EPA Rejects Texas' Call To Cut Ethanol Mandate

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

The governor of Texas has received a thumbs down from federal environmental officials after he asked for a cut in the amount of ethanol required in gasoline blends. Governor Rick Perry has claimed a federal mandate raises corn and fuel prices. The EPA didn't see it that way, as NPR's John Burnett reports.

JOHN BURNETT: Last spring, Texas Governor Rick Perry requested a temporary one year waiver that would've cut the federal ethanol mandate in half. He said it would help ease, quote, "the devastating impact of skyrocketing feed and food costs." Cattle feeders and poultry producers are complaining the cost of animal feed is going out of sight; while another side of the farm economy, corn growers, are saying if prices are rising it's because of increased fuel costs.

More than 70 GOP members of Congress, including Senator John McCain, have supported the ethanol waiver. EPA administrator Stephen Johnson said after a thorough analysis his agency concluded the ethanol mandate is doing more good than harm.

Perry's office released a statement saying, for the EPA to assert that this federal mandate is not affecting food prices not only goes against common sense but every American's grocery bill.

Ross Wilson is CEO of the Texas Cattle Feeders Association, whose members in Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico produce a third of the nation's fed cattle. He was likewise disappointed by Thursday's news.

Mr. ROSS WILSON (Texas Cattle Feeders Association): We have seen corn prices go up more than 200 percent. Our members have been losing, in 2008, some $100 to $200 per head.

BURNETT: As a result of the EPA's decision, the nation's fuel retailers will, as mandated, add nine billion gallons of ethanol to gasoline this year and 11 billion gallons next year.

John Burnett, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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