By Ucilia Wang, GigaOMBiofuel production nationwide has been woefully behind schedule as would-be producers struggle to just get their first commercial plants rolling. The U.S. government wants to help, and on Thursday, announced loan guarantee commitments totaling $571 million for cellulosic ethanol startup Coskata, waste-to-energy company Enerkem and Diamond Green Diesel, a joint venture from oil giant Valero and Darling International. Coskata has gotten a letter of intent from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a $250 million loan guarantee to build a plant to make ethanol from woody biomass. The plant will have the capacity to make 55 million gallons per year. Coskata’s plant plans seriously stalled during the recession, and Coskata has been waiting for this loan guarantee to come through. The company is well-known for touting a $1 per gallon production price and its backers including Khosla Ventures, General Motors, and Advanced Technology Ventures. The USDA also awarded Enerkem a conditional commitment for an $80 million loan guarantee to build a 10 million-gallon-per-year refinery for making ethanol out of municipal solid waste. Enerkem, which uses a thermochemical trash-to-syngas process, was already awarded a $50 million Department of Energy grant, and also raised funding from trash giant Waste Management, Cycle Capital, Rho Ventures, Braemar Energy Ventures and BDR Capital. At the same time, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is awarding a $241 million loan guarantee — its first for a biofuel plant — to Diamond Green Diesel. The guarantee will help Valero build a plant in Louisiana that will make 137 million gallons of biofuel per year primarily from animal fats and used cooking oil. The USDA said it’s not done doling out financial help to biofuel producers. It plans to announce new rules “soon” that will make more money available from the loan guarantee program, which originated from a 2008 Farm Bill.