The state-created Biofuels Center of North Carolina issued its own obituary Monday, saying it has begun winding down its operations and plans to shut down permanently by Oct. 31. All 14 employees will be out of work within 90 days.
The 5-year-old Oxford-based organization, which was created to help the state develop biofuels made from energy crops other than corn, lost its $4.3 million in annual funding in the budget recently passed by the Republican-controlled legislature and signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory.
Its office, with experimental plots of the bamboo-like cane Arundo donax and other potential energy crops, will be returned to the N.C. Department of Agriculture. The biofuels center leased the building for $1 a year.
In announcing its closure, the center characterized its own demise as a setback for North Carolina that would give neighboring states a competitive advantage. Its release stated that the center has received praise from all over the country when the legislature moved to cut off funding.
“Other Southeastern states will note with pleasure that North Carolina has eliminated the center,” CEO W. Steven Burke said in a statement.
“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,” Burke 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.”
The center will close out its accounts and projects and will return unspent funds to the N.C. Department of Commerce.
Its goal was to help North Carolina offset 10 percent of transportation fuels with ethanol and biodiesel. It achieved a small fraction of that goal in homegrown biodiesel production.