David already pointed to it, but it bears repeating: House Ag Committee Chairman Colin Peterson, a tireless champion of ethanol and any other big-ag project he can get his mits on, has declared that cellulosic ethanol could well never “get off the ground.” At best, he declared, cellulosic ethanol stands at least 10 years away from commercial viability (exactly what cellulosic boosters have been saying for three decades).

Wait a minute. Ethanol’s champions have long claimed that we should indulge corn-based ethanol its obvious weaknesses, because the corn-based brew is a mere bridge fuel to the real environmental panacea: cellulosic ethanol.

Over its 30-year run as a major “alternative fuel,” ethanol has enjoyed two constant champions. One is the U.S. Congress, particularly its farm-belt members; the other is the USDA, the federal agency through which Congress funnels much of its ethanol largesse.

Last September, the USDA expressed what I considered to be shocking pessimism about cellulosic’s promise: it held that while the technology offered “some longer-term promise” (“some”?), we shouldn’t hold our breath for any major breakthroughs before 2013.

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Now we get Peterson’s bleak pronouncements. If cellulosic ethanol is a bust, maybe we should stop dropping $5.5-$7.3 billion a year — and causing all manner of ecological havoc — propping up what’s supposed to be its bridge, corn ethanol?

I wonder what Vinod Khosla thinks about this.

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