OXFORD, N.C.—Due to the North Carolina General Assembly’s elimination of its funding in the state budget signed last week by Gov. Pat McCrory, the Biofuels Center of North Carolina has begun to shut down operations over a 90-day period and will close its doors by Thursday, 31 October 2013.
The methodology and chronology for shut down were approved with regret by the Center’s board of directors at its 23 July meeting.
Based in Oxford, the statewide economic development agency will responsibly and efficiently terminate its complex activities and grant programs, shut down its growing and development projects, truncate numerous company relationships, convey reports and information to state agencies, and undertake a final audit. Following the audit, all unspent monies will be returned to the state through the North Carolina Department of Commerce.
A private nonprofit corporation, the Center is judged the nation’s lead state model for comprehensive biofuels development. Since 2008, it has been responsible for charting North Carolina's path to gain large capacity for alternatives to petroleum-based liquid fuels. Projects and funding have assisted all parties statewide involved in the science, growing, production, and logistics of biofuels, and in addition addressed the educational, public information, and policy issues of a growing new sector. Targeted work and strategies have in this short period of time moved North Carolina from no biofuels presence to national credibility as a site for commercial development.
“We regret that this valuable endeavor for economic, rural, energy, and agricultural gain statewide will cease,” said Biofuels Center president and CEO W. Steven Burke. “The Center, a growing biofuels community statewide, and companies considering new facilities here share dismay that North Carolina has visibly pulled back from the nation’s lead state biofuels agency and from long-term commitment to comprehensive biofuels development,” he said. “No longer pursuing advanced biofuels with a focused, comprehensive strategy will lessen opportunity to create rural jobs, strengthen agriculture, and create an enormous biofuels and biomaterials sector. Other Southeastern states will note with pleasure that North Carolina has eliminated the Center. ”
Throughout the legislative session, internationally leading biofuels, bioproducts, and technology companies lobbied and wrote letters of support to executive and legislative leadership. One letter states that a partner company “would not have made the decision to locate its first U.S. advanced biofuels facility in North Carolina without the Biofuels Center.” Another company letter states that “defunding of the Biofuels Center sends a strong message to industry that North Carolina is no longer interested in the advanced biofuels industry.”
Just last year, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack visited the Biofuels Center in Oxford and held a press conference to applaud its work and comprehensive plan in the state.
“What’s unique about this Center and North Carolina is that you are actually bringing all the parties together and focusing on creating an entire supply chain, which is extraordinary,” Vilsack said at the May 2012 event. He continued, “You are also looking at ways in which to engage all parts of the state, not just one area. The Center has been looking at 15 nonfood feedstocks for biofuels and drop-in fuels. […] What you are doing here is not just important for North Carolina, it’s important for the entire country.”
Following recommendations of North Carolina's Strategic Plan for Biofuels Leadership, the General Assembly created the Biofuels Center of North Carolina in 2007, the nation's only agency working comprehensively over time for all aspects of biofuels development. Since opening its doors in January 2008, the Center has assisted all involved parties in development of a new agricultural and technological sector.