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President Bush's Call for More Ethanol Is Feasible if New Crops Are Tapped

Energy crop company Ceres, Inc said that President Bush's expected call for a substantial increase in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) at tonight's State of the Union address is achievable, but new dedicated energy crops and government initiatives will be needed.

Traditionally, ethanol has been made from corn starch in the United States. Today, advances in biotechnology and other disciplines are making it possible to produce ethanol from the energy-rich cellulose stored in the stems, stalks and leaves of plants. Economically breaking down and refining plant cellulose hold the key to large-scale biofuel production. Ceres believes that its high-yielding energy crops, such as switchgrass and miscanthus, now under development, will be the most efficient source of raw materials for cellulosic biofuel production.

"The President's goal of a five-fold increase in the RFS to 35-billion gallons by 2017 is feasible from a technology standpoint if cellulosic sources are included in the mix," said Ceres chief executive officer Richard Hamilton. He noted that private industry has already made significant improvements to energy crops and increasing the RFS will encourage greater investments in biofuels. "I'm confident that we will find ways to scale-up production of biofuels and make them competitive with gasoline," Hamilton said.

To accelerate the expansion of the industry, Hamilton encouraged lawmakers to:
  • Provide grants, loans and loan guarantees to facilitate the construction of the first cellulosic biorefineries.
  • Support pilot plantings of new energy crops and create a transitional assistance program for farmers.
  • Investigate new risk-management programs for farmers growing energy crops.
Ceres, Inc. is the leading developer of high-yielding energy crops that can be planted as feedstocks for cellulosic ethanol production. Its development efforts cover switchgrass, giant miscanthus, poplar and other energy crops. Founded in 1997 as a plant genomics company, Ceres holds the largest proprietary database of fully sequenced plant genes, including more than 70,000 genes and 10,000 gene promoters. The privately held company also licenses its traits to other organizations, including a $137 million, multi-year agreement with Monsanto. Ceres headquarters are located in Thousand Oaks, California.

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