Tuesday, the legislative Environment Review Commission was presented with a plan to develop and produce more alternative biological liquid fuel. North Carolina has the most potential bio-mass on the east coast according to Stephen Burke of the nonprofit North Carolina Biotechnology Center with over 18 million acres of potential “landstock.” The report does not recommend corn-based ethanol, but emphasizes using other varieties of plants that can produce cellulosic fuel such as wood waste, barley, soybeans, sweet potatoes and switch grass. The study group that presented the report was made up of over 70 people: all specialized in biotechnology and vested in the issue. The report presented a strategic plan for developing and producing 10% of our 5.6 billion gallons per year fuel demand. There are currently only 25 pumps of biodiesel across the state, and only 10-15 corn ethanol pumps.
The study group proposes that legislators create a “Strategic Biofuel Commission” that will be responsible for allocating a $25 million budget for research and development of cellulosic ethanol production over the next 10-15 years. The Biofuel Commission will coordinate the policy, development, production, distribution and marketing for the cellulosic ethanol, which is made from new biofuel technology using many different plants, and not using corn. Revenue Secretary Tolson commented that “North Carolina depends on petroleum-based fuel, which comes from people that do not particularly like us.”
The bottom line: North Carolina has great potential to produce and market alternative biofuels that will conserve our earth’s commodities and make the state being somewhat more energy self-reliant. Although the Environment Review Commission work in this area is just getting underway, the notion that the group will begin to help change the world is exciting. Many of our surrounding states have allocated millions of dollars for biofuel research and development, but it is North Carolina that has the most potential to produce change. Let’s hope this truly is just the start of the work in this area.