Saving Family Farms and Creating Jobs
North Carolina's agriculture industry holds great promise for the biofuels industry. For one, the state has a long growing season conducive to a wide range of crops, biomass, industrial crops, and trees. The significance of this range of possible feedstocks for biofuels production can be found here: The state's favorable climate has made it an agricultural leader: * North Carolina's agricultural industry is the 9th largest in the U.S. in exports. * 17.6 million acres of forest land, most of which is privately owned. * It has 48,000 farms, totaling 8,800,000 acres. * North Carolina's agriculture industry contributes over $68.3 billion annually to the state’s economy. * North Carolina's biotech crops provided a net value of over $73 million to the state in 2005. * North Carolina's agricultural biotechnology industry is favorable to privately-held and start-up companies (most of the $1.6 billion US agricultural biotechnology industry comes from these businesses.)
The Biofuels Center is focused on long-term sustainability. While economic sustainability is important, environmental sustainability is critical in developing a successful industry. Biofuels hold significant promise in increased energy security, reduced green house gas emissions, and local economic development. However, biofuels have also been criticized for their possible adverse impacts on the environment, food security and land use. The Center's focus is on assessing sustainable industry development opportunities and supporting the growth of environmentally sustainable industry. The challenge is to support biofuels development, including the development of new cellulosic technologies, with responsible policies and economic instruments to help ensure that biofuel commercialization is sustainable. Responsible commercialization of biofuels represents an opportunity to enhance sustainable economic prospects. The excess production and limited markets for the woody biomass resources in North Carolina provide an opportunity to develop a North Carolina biofuels industry based on woody biomass. Improved forest management practices, purpose-grown trees, managed forests, and intercropping all provide options for enhanced economics and environmental sustainability. While it is possible to grow a number of crops in North Carolina, including energy grasses such as miscanthus, our primary focus is on forest resources. Advanced biofuels from lignocellulosic feedstocks and energy crops offer an improved environmental and net energy profile compared to first-generation biofuels. In summary, biofuels help to reduce dependency on fossil fuels, reduce green house gas emissions, and boost local economic development. Renewable cleaner transportation fuels, combined with more efficient use of fuels, will help to develop a sustainable transportation strategy. Carefully crafted biofuels industry strategies will help to develop a successful North Carolina biofuels industry sector while simultaneously helping to ensure sustainability of local environmental resources.
Reducing Dependence on Foreign Oil
Decreases in the availability and security of petroleum supplies, coupled with global increases in demands, are driving energy, transportation, food, and fiber prices higher. Dependence on petroleum threatens U.S. energy, economic, and environmental security. A nation with insecure or in- adequate energy resources is at risk of being unable to feed and house its people, care for its environment, and sustain its economy. Biomass is the single renewable resource that has the potential to supply a significant portion of U.S. liquid transportation fuels, chemicals, and substitutes for fossil fuel- intensive products. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (Public Law 110-140) mandates that by 2022, the United States will replace 36 billion gallons/year (bg/yr) of transportation fuels with biofuels, with at least 16 bg/yr coming from cellulosic feedstocks. In 2007, then-Forest Service Chief Gail Kimbell set a goal of replac- ing 15 percent of current U.S. gasoline consumption with ethanol from wood— approximately 21 bg/yr —to meet energy goals and to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions (Kimbell 2007). Replacing 20 percent of U.S. transportation fuels with biofuels, substituting biopower for 7 per- cent of energy use in industry and utilities, and increasing biobased products produced to 27.7 million tons using materials from America’s farms and forests will come from a well-established, economically viable biobased products and bioenergy industry. President Barack Obama called for doubling renewable energy production (2009). The President also created the Biofuels Interagency Working Group (Biofuels and Rural Economic Development 2009), which is charged with developing the Nation’s first comprehensive biofuel market development program; coordinating infrastructure policies affecting the supply, secure transport, and distribution of biofuels; and identifying new policy options to promote the environmental sustainability of biofuels feedstock production. Wood is an abundant, sustainable, homegrown cellulosic resource that can significantly contribute to meeting 30 percent of U.S. petroleum consumption from biomass sources by 2030 and help create a more stable energy future, improve environmental quality, and increase economic opportunities.