Alternatives to petroleum-derived fuels are being sought in order to reduce the world's dependence on non-renewable resources. The most common renewable fuel today is ethanol derived from corn grain (starch) and sugar cane (sucrose). It is expected that there will be limits to the supply of these raw materials in the near future, therefore lignocellulosic biomass is seen as an attractive feedstock for future supplies of ethanol. However, there are technical and economical impediments to the development of a commercial processes utilizing biomass. Technologies are being developed that will allow cost-effective conversion of biomass into fuels and chemicals. These technologies include low-cost thermochemical pretreatment, highly effective cellulases and hemicellulases and efficient and robust fermentative microorganisms. Many advances have been made over the past few years that make commercialization more promising.