The Energy Independence and Security  Act of 2007 includes a renewable fuels standard requiring fuel refiners to blend an increasing amount of advanced biofuels into their gasoline and diesel fuel stocks.

In 2011, the Act mandated the blending of 6.6 million gallons of cellulosic biofuels. However, sufficient cellulosic fuels were not available to refiners for purchase and use. Refiners are now being fined for failing to meet the quota. [New York Times]

The Times characterized this situation as an example of “what happens when the federal government really, really wants something that technology is not ready to provide.” Through loan guarantees and grants, the federal government is encouraging some companies to open plants that would produce enough cellulosic fuel to meet the requirement. The prospects of those plants, however, are uncertain. Range Fuels, a company with plans to create fuel out of pine chips at a plant in Georgia, closed after being offered more than $150 million in government grants “because it ran into technological problems.”

Spokespeople for oil and gas industry have heavily criticized the requirements and fines. Representatives of the renewable fuels industry have also suggested that the fines are perhaps unwarranted. Dennis V. McGinn, spokesman for the American Council on Renewable Energy, said “it doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense that we would require blenders to pay fines or fees or whatever for stuff that literally isn’t available.”

All the same, the renewable fuels industry defends the Act and the renewable fuel standard. “I am absolutely convinced from a national security perspective and an economic perspective that the renewable fuel standard, writ large, is the right thing to do,“ said McGinn. [New York Times]