Local News

N.C. on cutting edge of biofuels research

Posted September 12, 2007
Updated April 30, 2008

— Prices at the gas pump are holding steady across the Triangle, with the average $2.75 a gallon. But many drivers want more options when it comes to filling up.

Alternative fuel is just a trickle in North Carolina, but a multimillion-dollar Biofuels Center under construction in Oxford could open up the flow.

Alternative fuel can reduce foreign-oil dependence, cut air pollution and save customers money. There are different kinds of alternative fuel. E-85 blends ethanol and gasoline and contains 85 percent plant- or animal-based ethanol. Bio-diesel is usually made from soybean oil or used cooking oil.

The Biofuels Center of North Carolina just put together its strategic plan to lead the state's efforts to ramp up production of alternative fuel. The General Assembly provided $5 million in funding.

"The commitment of $5 million by the legislature was a hard, smart look at the future," said W. Steven Burke, chair of the Biofuels Center’s board.

A goal for the Biofuels Center is to produce 10 percent of the liquid fuels sold in North Carolina by 2017 and to make them from crops grown in the state. To meet the goal, the Biofuels Center will have to produce nearly 600 million gallons of alternative fuel a year.

"We're very good at growing a range of crops throughout the state under different conditions. Those crops need to be identified and explored for their capability to be better broken down into biofuels," said Burke.

Researchers are trying to keep the state ahead of the curve on biofuel technology.

"Our capacity today is slight to non-existent. Our vision to reach that goal is great indeed. We've just started," said Burke.

WRAL-TV 5 asked motorists at the Triangle's only alternative fuel gas station what they thought about the Biofuels Center's plan.

"I think it's a good thing. We need to have more of it, actually, in my opinion," said one motorist.

"It's a great way for our crops to be used, great for our farmers, so it sounds good," said another motorist.

Filling up with fuel produced in North Carolina from state crops is a bold vision. A vision researchers said can be reached in 10 years.

The Biofuels Center has more than 80 public and private partners across North Carolina.


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  • 68_polara Sep 14, 2007


    and also one of the cheapest," it says.

    In conclusion, UN Energy suggests policymakers should take a holistic look before embarking on drives to boost biofuel use.
    "Only through a convergence of biodiversity, greenhouse gas emissions and water-use policies can bioenergy find its proper environmental context and agricultural scale," the report concludes.

  • 68_polara Sep 14, 2007

    I just read an article: UN warns on impacts of biofuels

    It's a warning that if we aren't smart about how the industry is run we could very well do harm. Also biofuels are better suited for Home energy use and electricity production than in transportation. That's ok, it's still displacing fossil fuel use.

    here it is:

    A UN report warns that a hasty switch to biofuels could have major impacts on livelihoods and the environment.

    Produced by a cross-agency body, UN Energy, the report says that biofuels can bring real benefits.

    But there can be serious consequences if forests are razed for plantations, if food prices rise and if communities are excluded from ownership, it says.

    And it concludes that biofuels are more effective when used for heat and power rather than in transport.

    "Current research concludes that using biomass for combined heat and power (CHP), rather than for transport fuels or other uses, is the best option for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the next decade -

  • 68_polara Sep 14, 2007

    I'm a conservative not a liberal so facts do matter. I'd like to see those studies and who did them because ethanol is already working in Brazil.

  • oldschool Sep 13, 2007

    68_polara - You are correct as far as you go with the CO2 emissions, but every study I've ever seen says that the amount of fossil fuel emissions required in production and shipping, coupled with the decreased mileage for bio fuels make it a wash on emissions. And the UN recently reported that when you factor pesticides, herbicides and fertilizer into the mix, bio fuels are more damaging to the environment than fossil fuels.

    But, I know the facts don't matter, as long as y'all feel good about it, that's all that matters.

  • 68_polara Sep 13, 2007

    I disagree with that. I look forward to using some renewable fuel but being realistic I also believe we will be paying more for it. Even at $3/ gallon gasoline has a lot of bang for the buck. The problem is where the bucks end up going.

  • peacebee Sep 13, 2007

    With all of our scientific knowledge, there is no reason, other than political agenda, why alternative fuels and energy are not utilized and developed to an affordable level of distribution to the masses.

  • the alliance Sep 13, 2007

    Bio me up!

  • MamaBear Sep 13, 2007

    It would be nice if they had the hydrogen vehicles and the hydrogen filling stations like they have over in Norway. Only byproduct is water.

  • 68_polara Sep 13, 2007

    Have have seen lots of articles lately were Russia, under Putin, has been spending more and more on their military, resuming flights of their long rang bombers, and building larger conventional bombs than ever before. High oil prices is the reason they are obtaining the money to restart this crazy cold war. I would pay more to burn renewable fuels in my gas tank rather than supporting the Russian military and terrorists in the middle east. Also, don't buy products made in China. They are producing nuclear weapons and pointing them at us from profits from their incredible economic growth. I fear we may end up at war with Russia or China one day and maybe both at the same time.

  • beleach Sep 13, 2007

    i am all for the bi products but if a lot of you do not know they are trying to build them in residental neighbor hoods and i can clearly say that is a big issue with safty seeing they are trying to put it 500 feet form my house in statesville NC. So let me know if you would like to have one chemical plant in your neighbor hood or better yet in your back yard.
    you can contact me at ninfrl@yahoo.com and that stands for North Iredell Neighbors for Rural Life .