Federal regulations can be maddening, but none more so than a current one that demands oil refiners use millions of gallons of a substance, cellulosic ethanol, that does not exist.
"As ludicrous as that sounds, it's fact," says Charles Drevna, who represents refiners. "If it weren't so frustrating and infuriating, it would be comical."
And Tom Pyle of the Institute of Energy Research says, "the cellulosic biofuel program is the embodiment of government gone wild."
Refiners are at their wit's end because the government set out requirements to blend cellulosic ethanol back in 2005, assuming that someone would make it. Seven years later, no one has.
"None, not one drop of cellulosic ethanol has been produced commercially. It's a phantom fuel," says Pyle. "It doesn't exist in the market place."
And Charles Drevna adds, "forcing us to use a product that doesn't exist, they might as well tell us to use unicorns."
And yet, they still have to pay what amounts to fines:
"Why would they ask them to blend any at all if it doesn't exist?" Pyle said. "Because they know that they can squeeze some extra dollars out of them."
The EPA does have discretion to lower the annual requirement. And one supporter explains, that's what the agency is saying.
"We are going to reduce your blending obligation by 98 percent because we feel that that’s the right thing to do," says Brooke Coleman, the executive director of the Advanced Ethanol Council of the Renewable Fuels Association. "We are going to maintain your blending obligation on the gallons that we think are going to emerge."
The EPA, which would not speak on camera, is still hoping production of cellulosic ethanol will emerge.
A study by the Congressional Research Service, however, says the government "projects that cellulosic bio fuels are not expected to be commercially available on a large scale until at least 2015."
Drevna of the refiners association says they had no other choice left since EPA insisted they still had to blend some of the nonexistent cellulosic ethanol.
"We've had to go to the courts and litigate this thing is because they just turned a blind eye to us," Drevna said.
So the refiners are now suing the EPA, in part because the mandate gets larger and larger-- 500 million gallons this year, 3 billion in 2015 and 16 billion in 2022.
And still, not a gallon of cellulosic ethanol in sight.