Thanks for the reply, sphinx. Very informative. The key is in the economics then, and not so much the technology. Sounds promising.
The other thing that can drive the economics is the price of oil. Biofuels took off in the last decade as the price of oil rose from $20 to nearly $150 a barrel. A global recession has reduced demand, and fracking is usefully augmenting supply, but a price spike on oil could change the equation overnight.
Philosophically, I'd make the same argument about solar power. A lot of people on FR react reflexively against any favorable mention of solar. This is the understandable result of decades of trench warfare against greenies who are opposed to all conventional fuels and want to launch us into a solar future, on the basis of truly massive subsidies and much higher energy costs. And of course, I agree that such utopian schemes must be resisted.
But that said, enormous work has been done in the labs, and the costs of solar have come down dramatically. People need to pay attention to the current numbers. Solar is winning ever-larger markets for off-grid applications, and there are a number of solar technologies that could, at long last, emerge as game changers. I support robust research and modest investments in demonstration scale deployment. I would not be surprised if big changes happen in the future.