The Environmental Protection Agency will raise its 2008 Renewable Fuels Standard for ethanol from 4.6 percent (estimated in November) of the nation's gas supply use to 7.76 percent. This is to comply with new legislation that requires 9 billion gallons of ethanol production this year.

Published in the Federal Register, EPA recalculated the ethanol standard using updated data on gasoline consumption projected for the year. Ethanol use tallied about 6.5 billion gallons in 2007.

Congress passed the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 in December, mandating the use of at least 36 billion gallons of biofuels nationwide by 2022. It allowed up to 15 billion gallons a year to come from corn-based ethanol. Non-corn ethanol is expected to reach 3 billion gallons in 2016 and rise to 21 billion gallons by 2022.

Until then, corn will make up the majority of ethanol. Meat industry groups contend the EPA standards will continue to pit food against fuel, raising already high feedgrain costs. American Meat Institute, officials point out that the new mandate will require 22 million acres of corn the 90 million acres planted in 2007. What's more, that acreage is expected to decline this year as soybean and wheat prices pull acres away from corn.