Officials hailed Iowa as the hub for a new generation of energy production last week at the long-awaited grand opening of Project Liberty’s cellulosic ethanol plant in Emmetsburg.

The facility, a joint venture of Poet and Royal DSM, will process baled corn cobs, leaves, husks and stalks into ethanol at a rate of about 2 million gallons per month. It is the largest commercial cellulosic ethanol facility in the U.S. and first to use corn residue in the process.

"Some have called cellulosic ethanol a fantasy fuel, but today it becomes a reality," said Jeff Broin, Poet founder and executive chairman. "This marks the beginning, the foundation for the transformation of our energy supply from a fossil economy to a renewable economy. It may not be completed in our lifetime, but it will happen."

The lavish grand-opening ceremonies beckoned a visit by Willem-Alexander, the king of the Netherlands — ...