Point of View

North Carolinians want more renewable fuel

July 14, 2013 

At the height of the summer driving season, it is unfortunate how dependent drivers in North Carolina and the rest of the country remain on high-priced gasoline. Drivers in the Tar Heel state can expect to pay as much as $3.79 a gallon to fill up their cars. The effect of those high gas prices on families is eye-opening. In fact, when it costs more to fulfill basic transportation needs, new polling shows that North Carolinians are less likely to spend money on dining out, clothes and even gifts. We deserve our independence with more renewable fuel options at the pump.

In 2011, North Carolinians spent nearly 7 percent of their incomes on gasoline, compared with the national average of 4 percent. With a median household income in the state of $46,291, family spending on gas reaches more than $3,000 every year. Every month North Carolinians are spending over $250 on gas that could be spent on food, clothing or investing in education and retirement. It is no wonder that North Carolina drivers are ready for a break.

The Biofuels Center of North Carolina, along with Fuels America – a coalition of organizations committed to protecting America’s Renewable Fuel Standard – recently commissioned a poll to gauge how North Carolina consumers are affected by high and volatile gas prices. Nearly 4 in every 5 respondents, or 79 percent, believe that transitioning the state’s economy from one that depends on oil to one that depends on renewable fuel is a good idea.

Sixty-five percent agree that renewable fuel helps reduce the cost of gas and saves drivers money at the pump. Additionally, 79 percent of North Carolinians polled think America should be using more renewable fuel, and 76 percent support the one policy in place that is making that happen: the Renewable Fuel Standard.

Renewable fuel currently makes up about 10 percent of America’s transportation fuel supply. It is already saving consumers money at the pump, and, as the recent polling data demonstrates, consumers are ready for more.

In North Carolina, we are delivering. Our biotech companies are leading the development and production of renewable fuel. Chemtex International, based in Wilmington, is in the development stages of a new biorefinery that is expected to be operational by mid-2015 using at least 300,000 tons of biomass and providing direct jobs in the state. North Carolina is emerging as a leader in advanced renewable fuel technology.

North Carolina is also the North American headquarters for Novozymes North America. With more than 500 employees, our Franklinton site is the largest multi-purpose enzyme manufacturing plant in the United States. Enzymes are a key technology for conversion of plants and waste to biofuels.

Federal policies like the RFS support this progress. It is the only policy working to create space in the oil-dominated fuel sector and moving us toward using more sustainable fuel sources.

A study out of Louisiana State University credits the mix of renewable fuel in our gasoline with lowering the average price of a gallon by $0.79, and Iowa State University estimates the savings to be $1.09. Either way, that’s a significant savings – giving consumers more money to save or spend on their families.

Today, 400,000 Americans are at work because of renewable fuel in good-paying, stable jobs – and the increase of advanced biofuels facilities can help create 800,000 more nationwide. Currently, advanced renewable fuel facilities are operating in more than 22 states, and here in North Carolina we can lead the way in developing these fuels.

The RFS is working. The policy is critical to allowing North Carolinians the opportunity to have fuel diversity and lower gas prices. It’s working in North Carolina. Let’s let it work.

Adam Monroe is president of Novozymes North America in Franklinton.

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