Local News

Bio-fuel Efforts Are Creeping Ahead in 1st Gear

Posted August 7, 2007 9:09 p.m. EDT

— The alternative fuel movement is in its infancy in North Carolina, and few service stations offer ethanol or bio-diesel.

University research in the field is picking up, though, and there is some degree of research and development in private-sector laboratories. What's more the 2007 North Carolina legislative session pushed the effort a little farther along, pleasing alternative-fuel advocates.

“We got $5 million for a new bio-fuels center for North Carolina. We got a fund administered by the Department of Commerce to encourage green business development, which focuses on the bio-fuels industry,” said Anne Tazwell, alternative fuels program manager of the N.C. Solar Center at N.C. State University.

The little guy also got a break.

People who make their own bio-diesel are now exempt from the state motor fuels tax. That saves the home alternative-fuel brewer about $2,500.

Supporters like Tazwell say North Carolina should do more because there are so many opportunities here.

“Bio-fuel can be made out of waste vegetable oil from your local McDonald's. It can also be made out of animal renderings, so all the hog leftovers we have in this state can be used -- and the chicken renderings, too,” she said.

In Durham, at the Triangle's only gas station that carries ethanol-based E-85, alternative fuel still has a ways to go before it's a hot seller. The manager says the station sells about 2,000 gallons of regular unleaded gasoline every day. They sell about 200 gallons of E-85.

Retailers say they're not hearing from customers who want alternative fuel.

The alternative-fuel movement isn't racing down the highway, but some say it's at least headed in the right direction.

After the service station on Highway 55 in Durham, the nearest stations to the Triangle selling a full line of alternative fuels are in Southern Pines.