OXFORD, N.C. — North Carolina will spend $5 million a year to fund a new research facility in an effort to have a tenth of the state's liquid fuel be locally produced biofuels by 2017.
Researchers at the Biofuels Center of North Carolina, which opened in January, study unconventional sources of fuel and work with farmers and fuel producers to make alternative fuels more economical.
Currently, corn is the most economically efficient crop used to produce ethanol. However, farmers say the use of corn is driving up food costs.
"We are not expecting corn to be the future (for biofuel production)," said John Ganzi, president of the research center.
The future, he say, lies in other plants and products, such as timber, algae, switch grass and chicken fat – all natural products that will be researched for fuel production.
And there is another advantage, Ganzi says: Profits from gasoline and other natural fuels do not go back into the state because they are not produced here. Biofuels could mean billions of dollars to the local economy.
"Within 10 years, it should hopefully be an industry that's worth billions – $2 to $3 billion," he said.