Remember five years ago, when cellulosic ethanol was going to fill our tanks without eating into food crops? The Environmental Protection Agency does, because it's had to keep rolling back the minimum renewable fuel standards put into place by the passage of the 2005 Energy Policy Act (H.R. 6). 2012 will be no different than the last two years, when the EPA backed off cellulosic ethanol targets of 100 million gallons in tanks for 2010 and 250 million gallons in 2011, reducing those figures to just 6.5 million gallons for both years. The EPA has proposed setting the 2012 requirement at 12.9 million gallons.

Part of the problem, the EPA says, is that suppliers have not created the biorefineries and thus not generated the production volume that was projected in 2005 when H.R. 6 was signed by then-president George W. Bush. "What's the hold up?" asked Nebraska representative Lee Terry. "I would have expected mass production by now," he commented during a hearing in May. In March, President Obama indicated a desire to get four new cellulosic ethanol refineries up and running by 2013.

Under the original plan laid out in H.R. 6, the U.S. should be using 1 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol in 2013, a number also likely to be rolled back due to the lack of fuel available on the market, though the EPA says it will continue to evaluate the market and remains optimistic that celluloic ethanol will play a larger role in the nation's fuel mix.