Even for true believers, the “green energy economy” has to be looking more and more like the Monty Python cheese shop sketch. 

A week ago Friday the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency exceeded its authority in mandating that U.S. petroleum refiners buy 8.7 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol and blend it into their gasoline in 2012.

The problem: no commercially viable cellulosic ethanol production. Divining the wave of the future six years ago, Congress mandated the use of 100 million gallons in 2010, 250 million in 2011, 500 million last year and, recognizing the industry didn’t exist, entrusted the EPA to revise the quotas based on availability.

For 2010 the EPA mandated the use of 5 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol, 6.6 million for 2011 and 8.7 million for 2012. The actual amounts available to refiners, by year: zero, zero, and zero.

The American Petroleum Institute sued—with good cause, because as the court noted last Friday, refiners were in “an impossible position,” being “forced to purchase volumes of cellulosic biofuel greater than total production, or pay fines for failing to do so.”     

At just 14 pages and dryly dismissive of the EPA’s energy policy hallucinations, the decision is a fun read.

The court remanded the issue of quota amounts and ordered the EPA to come up with something real, and so it did, right.

Wrong. On Thursday, less than a week after being told its numbers were so delusional as to violate federal law, the EPA set its cellulosic ethanol quota for 2013 at 14 million gallons, evidently hoping it can decree enough usage to make up for the fact that the product doesn’t exist.

The federal government is now beyond explanation. Maybe this will help.