Rick Wagoner, General Motors' CEO, has recently come out against United Nations research arguing that there is a link between biofuel production and a global rise in food prices, deriding the report as "shockingly misinformed."

Perhaps GM's own vested interest in the subject - not just in the form of its already hefty investment in E85-capable cars and future models, but its new partnership with Mascoma - lies at the root of Wagoner's statements.

The partnership, announced in a statement released today, is based on cooperation to develop Mascoma's single-step biochemical production method for cellulosic ethanol. The process uses non-grain biomass to create alternative fuels. The partnership is especially keen on stressing the non-grain origin of the fuels.

"Demonstrating the viability of sustainable non-grain based ethanol is critical to developing the infrastructure to support the flex-fuel vehicle market," said GM President Fritz Henderson.

GM is already a leader in E85-capable vehicles in the U.S., where it has sold nearly half of the 7 million flex fuel vehicles on the market. The partnership with Mascoma will help GM secure a sustainable source of ethanol to fuel those vehicles, and future vehicles it plans to be powered by the low-carbon alternative fuel.

Mascoma expects to begin production later this year at a demonstration plant currently being built in Rome, New York.

A similar project has been announced by Coskata, another company GM is working with on cellulosic ethanol. Our previous coverage of that tie-up can be found here.