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N.C. Takes Biofuels Leadership, Establishes New Endeavor With $5 Million State Appropriation

OXFORD, N.C., Sept. 4 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Catalyzing an entire new industry for North Carolina is the long-term task of the newly established Biofuels Center of North Carolina, which moved to reality today following its first board of directors meeting.

Funded with a $5 million initial appropriation from the 2007 General Assembly, the non-profit corporation will in coming years implement North Carolina's Strategic Plan for Biofuels Leadership. The Plan was mandated by the General Assembly in 2006 and presented to its Environmental Review Commission in April of this year.

The Plan offers a challenging goal: by 2017, 10 percent of liquid fuels sold in North Carolina will come from biofuels grown and produced within the state.

At current usage rates, production of almost 600 million gallons will be required.

"Meeting this bold goal will require enormous commitment, new resources, and untold acres of energy crops across the state," said W. Steven Burke, chair of the Biofuels Center's board of directors. "Meeting the goal will also yield a sector of impact statewide, particularly for rural and agricultural communities. How often does a state have opportunity to create a large new industry with widespread benefit?"

The Strategic Plan was shaped by a 24-member steering committee and more than 80 public and private participants from across North Carolina. Six months of discussion and ideas yielded 9 strategies to ensure that the state gains biofuels capabilities and benefit over the next 10-15 years. Key among the strategies was establishment of a neutral catalyzing and assisting agency to work with researchers, growers, production facilities, educators, and policy- makers.

Establishment of the Biofuels Center of North Carolina moves that key strategy to quick reality. The non-profit corporation will be headquartered at the newly established North Carolina Biofuels Campus in Oxford. The site is the former U.S. Department of Agriculture tobacco research facility that was turned over in 2005 to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Goal: By 2017, North Carolina will supply 10 percent of its liquid fuel needs with biofuels produced in the state.

Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler and his department see biofuels as an increasingly important sector for the state's agricultural economy and have designated the campus for biofuels development activities.

"The Biofuels Center is the right idea at the right time," said state Rep. Jim Crawford, representing House District 32 and Granville County and a lead advocate for the Center. "It's valuable for Granville County and people in Oxford but also for people across North Carolina. After all, we all need more biofuels."

Though many states are aggressively pursuing biofuels development, North Carolina is believed to be the first to establish both a central targeted agency and a central campus for support and activities. The catalyzing agency is patterned on the state's bold leadership move in 1984 to establish the North Carolina Biotechnology Center in nearby Research Triangle Park.

The Strategic Plan focuses the state's biofuels future on products made not from important food and feed crops such as corn, but rather from cellulosic feedstocks such as wood waste, animal wastes, and high-yield plants and grasses. With its rich forestry and agricultural resources, North Carolina is well suited to develop and grow such biomass.

Initial board members of the Biofuels Center are:

-- W. Steven Burke, Chair, senior vice president, corporate affairs with

the North Carolina Biotechnology Center

-- Billy Ray Hall, president of the North Carolina Rural Economic

Development Center

-- Ghasem Shahbazi, Ph.D., professor and director of bioenvironmental

engineering at North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University

-- Norris Tolson, Secretary and Treasurer, president and CEO of the North

Carolina Biotechnology Center

-- Johnny Wynne, Ph.D., dean of the College of Agriculture and Life

Sciences at North Carolina State University

The Board will rapidly gain an executive director and small staff for the Biofuels Center. Programs will be established to fund research on crops strategically important across the state, to strengthen growing and production capacity, to initiate workforce training programs, and to address public awareness, policies, and federal funding.

"The growing biofuels industry offers enormous opportunities for creating new jobs and decreasing America's dependence on foreign energy," said Congressman G.K. Butterfield, whose 1st District includes Granville County.

"It also provides the potential for strengthening our farms and rural communities by offering them a strong, sustainable and important long-term stake in America's energy strategy. The Biofuels Center of North Carolina will help to ensure that these possibilities and opportunities become realities."

A complete copy of Fueling North Carolina's Future: North Carolina's Strategic Plan for Biofuels Leadership is available on the Web at

SOURCE Biofuels Center of North Carolina
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