The Bush administration estimates its proposal will cost tax payers $87.3 billion over the next five years, a 17 percent reduction from the $105 billion price tag of the 2002 Farm Bill.
Echoing last week's State of the Union address, the plan included ambitious goals for alternative fuels -- especially ethanol. The plan unveiled this week would provide $3.7 billion in funding for cellulosic ethanol research and loan guarantees for production facilities.
But even as the White House, farm-state lawmakers and renewable fuel interests revel in the current boom, ethanol critics are sounding the alarm.
President George W. Bush: "Tonight, I ask Congress to join me in pursuing a great goal. Let us build on the work we've done and reduce gasoline usage in the United States by 20 percent in the next 10 years."
It took less than a week for nay-sayers to block the sunlight shining on President Bush's landmark biofuels initiative. Every possible issue has been touched on from higher food prices to increased pollution
The Earth Policy Institute is blasting the Bush administration's plan with a twist on the "food-or-fuel" argument. If their prediction comes true, half of the country's corn crop will go towards ethanol production by 2008.
Steve Sanderson, the president of the Wildlife Conservation Society, believes U.S. farmers will plant corn on highly erodable land to supply biofuels processors with raw materials. According to an editorial in The Wall Street Journal, Sanderson claims farmers will tear up 40 million Conservation Reserve and Conservation Security acres to help meet the ever increasing needs of a fuel hungry nation destroying gains made in restoring the environment.
According to the National Chicken Council, the "food or fuel" issue is already a problem. The organization did applaud Bush's biofuels plan but said chicken producers are feeling the pinch. According to Chicken Council officials, the marketplace has begun the swing towards fuel production over feed and added six cents per pound to poultry production costs.
Closer to the beltway, Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman is casting doubt on the U.S. being able to hit the 35 billion gallon biofuels target. If the country were to fall short Bodman is recommending the 54 cent per gallon ethanol tariff be lifted to keep fuel flowing.
And scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency are saying ethanol could raise smog levels in the summer. According to EPA documents, the increased use of ethanol might raise harmful tailpipe emissions by 1 percent in states without an ethanol mandate. This prompted Stanford University scientists to claim the higher pollution levels could add 200 deaths per year to the 4,700 blamed on smog.