Wonky Gristians will want to read the entirety of Robert Rapier’s “Top 10 Energy Stories of 2008” on the Oil Drum. I’ll focus here on item No. 6: “Second-generation ethanol is delayed.”

Rapier opens by linking to a “top energy stories to watch in 2008” story from the U.S. News and World Report published a year ago. “Next-generation ethanol production begins,” the writer predicted, citing “Range Fuels’ plan to begin commercial production of ethanol from timber-industry waste late in 2008.”

Ah, plans. Rapier brings the update. “The over-promise, under-deliver meme that I have been critical of continues,” he writes. “Range Fuels had initially intended to start producing in 2008, but that was delayed to 2009 and now production isn’t forecast to begin until 2010.”

None of this dims the pie-eyed optimism of cellulosic boosters, Rapier notes. He cites the case of Coskata, which makes this claim: “Using proprietary microorganisms and patented bioreactor designs, we will produce ethanol for under US $1.00 per gallon.” Right. And they’re not doing it already because …? Rapier links to a previous post of his that slices through Coskata’s hype.

Meanwhile, even as federal mandates for cellulosic ethanol under the 2007 Energy Act start to ramp up, construction of new plants has slowed to a trickle, despite an influx of federal cash. “[O]f the six cellulosic ethanol projects selected to receive $385 million in federal funding in February 2007, almost two years later only one plant is actually under construction (Range Fuels),” Rapier writes. Oh, right, Range Fuels — the company that keeps overpromising and underdelivering.