Lima Mayor David Berger says he still has hope a synthetic gas plant will end up being built in Lima. What's telling is we are not hearing him use the word optimistic.Hope and optimism. There's quite a big difference in the meaning of those two words, just as there is quite a big difference in stock that sells for $4 compared to 26 cents.That's where the USA Synthetic Fuel Corp. plan is right now for the Lima Energy plant. Only 210 shares have been sold, and at 26 cents a share, that is less than $55 being raised for a plant that had a $500 million price tag back in 1999.Some would say that 12 years later, that adds up to being back to Square One. Another way to put it: a lump of coal in your Christmas stocking is worth more than a share of Lima Energy stock.Lima Energy's plan is to convert hydrocarbons, such as coal, into clean, synthetic gas. It includes some interesting possibilities for partnerships, as the plant's castoff materials could fuel other loosely related projects.However, a dozen years of struggling to get permits and funding, topped off by a bad economy, is making this story more worthy of the obit page than the front page.The project has mountains to climb before it hits the $4 a share needed to get onto the Nasdaq exchange. One of its potential partners, New York-based investment firm Socius Capital Group, wants the stock on Nasdaq before it'll chip in $10 million in equity to help. We need to be realistic: The stock would have to increase in value by 2500 percent before that could happen.USA Synthetic Fuel Corp. also lost a deal with RBC Capital Markets to help raise up to $600 million in bonds for the project.Even Procter & Gamble, which had nine contracts to purchase the energy generated at the plant if it were ever built, seemed to lose its everlasting patience with the project. It signed nine amendments, one a year, but declined to sign a 10th. In a Cincinnati Business Courier story, USA Synthetic Fuel Corp. Chairman Harry Graves said he expected P&G to sign on the dotted line once the project issues its bonds.Berger and Graves continue to remain cheerleaders for the project, touting it could transform Lima and its place in the world. They have so much hope. All the rest of us have is an empty slab of concrete on the site of the former Lima Locomotive Works.Their efforts led to some good things, to be sure. Lima's lucky someone had a reason to knock down the old Loco Works, which had become an eyesore before it tumbled to the ground. Also, there's a nice railroad underpass on Vine Street, paid primarily by stimulus money, that should help keep traffic moving when the trains aren't.There's still the possibility of $470 in Ohio Air Quality bonds, which could certainly push the project in the right direction. Those are no guarantee the plant will ever be up and running, though.If the project somehow comes to fruition, it'll be a nice present for our workforce. Otherwise, we need to stop standing at the window, waiting for Santa to come and taking our lumps instead. We must move on with our lives, looking for other economic development possibilities and stop waiting on this mythical development.