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Nation Digest

Thursday, November 19, 2009

WHITE HOUSE

Obama: Guantanamo won't close on time

President Obama acknowledged Wednesday that he will not meet his original January deadline for shutting down the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Obama told Fox News Channel that he was not disappointed that he would miss the deadline, which he set upon taking office in January, because "I knew this was going to be hard."

"We are on a path and a process where I would anticipate that Guantanamo will be closed next year," Obama said, declining to give a specific date.

-- Reuters

ENERGY

Ethanol costs falling sharply, firm says

The nation's largest producer of corn-based ethanol said that it has slashed the cost of producing cellulosic ethanol from corn cobs and that it will be able to compete with gasoline in two years.

Poet, which produces 1.5 billion gallons of ethanol from corn per year, said its year-old pilot plant has reduced the cost of making ethanol to $2.35 a gallon, from $4.13 a gallon, by cutting capital costs and using an improved "cocktail" of enzymes.

Poet chief executive Jeff Broin estimated that the nation currently could produce 5 billion gallons a year of ethanol from corn cobs -- about 3 percent of current motor fuel consumption.

-- Steven Mufson

EDUCATION

Schools told to ready for student-loan shift

Senior House Democrats urged college presidents to prepare for direct government lending, even though a bill to overhaul federal student loan programs has been held up in the Senate.

The letter from Reps. George Miller (Calif.) and Rubén Hinojosa (Tex.), echoing one last month from the Education Department, reflected the increasingly tight timetable for the Obama administration's plan to convert the programs entirely to direct lending starting July 1.

In September, the House passed a bill to do that, which would save an estimated $80 billion over 10 years by eliminating federal subsidies to private lenders. But congressional aides say Senate action depends on movement in the drawn-out health-care debate.

"Prudent action" by colleges to prepare to offer direct government lending would help ensure "that every eligible student in this country has access to the dependable student aid they need to pay for college and pursue their dreams," Miller and Hinojosa wrote.

-- Nick Anderson

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