Cellulosic ethanol technology is ready, but loan guarantees, policy stability and market access are still needed, said Poet CEO Jeff Broin at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on April 21.

Nevertheless, Broin said his company will produce 3.5 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year by 2022.

POET has made enough progress on technology and feedstock development to break ground on its first plant in Emmetsburg, IA, later this year, Broin said. He is confident it will be the first of many.

"By 2022, POET plans to be responsible for 3.5 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol production by adding the technology to our existing facilities, licensing our technology to other producers and, finally, transferring our technology to other forms of biomass such as wheat straw, switchgrass and municipal waste," Broin said.

Policymakers can help overcome the remaining hurdles to commercializing the cellulosic ethanol production process, he suggested. "In order for this vision to become a reality, policymakers must provide access to the market and the stability needed to attract the large amount of capital that will be required to finance its construction.

"We filed an application (for a loan guarantee) with the DOE (U.S. Department of Energy) this morning and need to have a favorable ruling from it this calendar year. If we get that favorable ruling, we told the DOE that we will start construction by the end of this year, which puts us on track to start up the facility in early 2012.

"Congress has set a target of 16 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol by 2022," Broin said. "This is a lofty goal, but it is achievable. If we can put a man on the moon in less than a decade, a country as great as ours can meet this challenge as well. But we must take the first step. At Poet, we are ready. Once policy is stabilized, we are ready to begin construction of our first commercial facility, Project Liberty."

Project Liberty is a 25-million-gallon-per-year cellulosic ethanol plant to be located in Emmetsburg that is to use corn cobs as feedstock. Poet's pilot-scale plant in Scotland, SD, is already producing about 20,000 gallons per year of cellulosic ethanol.