Local News

Bush Visits Biotech Plant in Franklinton

Posted February 22, 2007 6:34 a.m. EST
Updated February 22, 2007 6:19 p.m. EST

— President George W. Bush met with researchers at a Franklin County plant Thursday to discuss his call for an increase in alternative fuels to reduce American dependence on foreign oil.

Bush toured the Novozymes plant in Franklinton, which produces enzymes that break down corn starch so it can be converted to ethanol, and held a panel discussion with researchers there.

"We're here to talk about what's possible, to see what the dreamers are doing," Bush said. "If you really want to reduce dependence on oil, you have to reduce the amount of gasoline you use."

The researchers agreed that Bush's call to reduce the country's reliance on foreign oil by 20 percent over the next 10 years is a goal that can be met, as long as research continues to be funded.

Bush noted that other sources of ethanol need to be developed because the competition for using corn for both fuel -- about 7 billion gallons of ethanol are produced annually -- and agricultural feed is starting to pinch cattle and hog farmers.

"How do you achieve your goal of less dependence on oil without breaking your farmers?" he said. "You develop new technologies that will allow you to make ethanol out of wood chips or stalkgrass or agricultural wastes."

Bush also praised Novozymes, which is based in Denmark, for its continued investment in the plant and the dozens of jobs it has created.

"For those people who are worried about free trade, if this country were to wall ourselves off from the world, we would miss opportunities to find markets for our products and, at the same time, miss opportunities for citizens at facilities like this to find good work," he said.

Novozymes opened in 1979 with about 50 employees, and more than 350 people work there now. Plant employees were thrilled by the national attention a presidential visit brought to their workplace.

"It's great for morale. It's going to enthuse everyone and make them work even harder," Novozymes employee Julie Clemmons said.

North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler also was enthused by Bush's visit.

"It's exciting for me to know that agriculture can play such a big role in helping us break this dependency on foreign oil. It's an opportunity for agriculture," Troxler said.

Before his visit to Novozymes, Bush honored a Durham teacher for his volunteer work.

Jamie Lathan, a history teacher at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics in Durham, was given the President's Volunteer Service Award for his work mentoring teens and his leadership club for at-risk youth.

"It's hard to believe. It was very humbling when I saw him walk out and walk out to meet me. I was completely humbled and was at a loss for words," Lathan said of his meeting with the president. "He said, 'It's people like you that make America what it is.'"