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White House Steps Up Biofuels Support

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The White House made its first major statement on ethanol on Tuesday, assembling three Cabinet members to outline a plan to shield corn ethanol producers from the credit crisis, work with them to cut their use of natural gas and coal in production, and nudge the auto industry toward production of vehicles that can use ethanol at concentrations of up to 85 percent, The New York Times reported.

The Secretaries of Agriculture and Energy, Tom Vilsack and Stephen Chu, respectively, along with the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Lisa Jackson, announced during a press conference the formation of a "Biofuels Interagency Working Group" comprised of the three agencies, according to the newspaper report.

Through this working group, the federal government announced several goals, including helping to refinance existing ethanol and biodiesel factories whose owners are having trouble obtaining credit, guaranteeing loans for the construction of new biorefineries, and expediting funding to help producers of cellulosic crops. Cellulosic crops refer to non-food crops, or the non-food portion of plants grown for food like corn stalks, that in theory can be converted to fuel on a commercial scale, the report stated.

President Obama put the Agriculture Department in charge of the multi-agency effort.

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