Poet pilot plantOutput of cellulosic ethanol will surge starting in 2013, according to the U.S.' largest corn-based biofuel production firm, Poet LLC.

Poet says 2013 marks the start of commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol production in the U.S. and predicts its lone facility will "open the floodgates" for the advanced biofuel.

Come 2013, Poet will start producing up to 25 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol a year at its site in Iowa. In addition, competitors British Petroleum and Abengoa plan to have their U.S.-based advanced biofuel facilities online by the end of 2013.

Cellulosic ethanol differs from conventional ethanol because it's made mainly from non-edible substances, including corn stover, switchgrass or woodchips. As Poet exec Greg Hartgraves points out, production of cellulosic ethanol is expensive and that means those floodgates need to be helped open with federal monies. Without an energy policy mandating its production, U.S. firms are likely to shy away from the cellulosic biofuel, he said.