Center vice president presents to North Carolina General Assembly committee

The Biofuels Center was invited to present to the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Alternative Fuels at its February meeting (8 February 2012). Mark Conlon, Biofuels Center vice president for sector development, provided an overview of the current status of biofuels usage and production in North Carolina.

The House Select Committee is charged with studying North Carolina’s future energy needs and how the state can become more independent of foreign energy sources. As part of the study, the committee is examining the potential for job creation and market growth as a result of the use of biofuels as a fuel source for vehicles. The committee is required to submit a final report to the General Assembly by early 2013 with its finding and any legislative recommendations.

Conlon’s presentation can be found on the General Assembly's website or by clicking here.

Center to commission second biofuels jobs survey

The Biofuels Center is about to repeat the census of biofuels employment across the state that it conducted last year for the first time. In last year's survey—which was independently done by third-party market research firm Bioscience Information Partners—results showed a larger number of jobs than was expected so soon for a new and emerging sector. At that time, 443 people were found to be working in the sector. 

The Center is asking all organizations engaged in activities related to the biofuels sector to please participate in the short annual survey, which can be completed in fewer than 10 minutes. BIP will be sending out emails with a link to the survey in the next two weeks. The information obtained from the survey is important to assisting the Center with further development of this sector.

A summary of the results from last year's survey can be read in a white paper on the Biofuels Center's website.

Congress renews commitment to support alternative fuels for military use

Congress once again stated its support for cost-competitive alternative fuels for use by the U.S. military. On 31 December 2011, President Obama signed into law the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  Section 863(b) of the act states:

“(b) SENSE OF CONGRESS.—It is the sense of Congress that
the Department of Defense should continue to pursue long-term
contracting authority for alternative fuels, as well as traditional
fuels, if the contracts will satisfy military requirements and result
in equal or less cost to the Department over their duration.”

Section 863 also requires the Department of Defense to evaluate the advantages of “multiyear contracts for the purchase of alternative fuels, including advanced biofuels” and provide a report to Congress on their findings within 120 days.

Hard work by many members of the North Carolina congressional delegation, working in concert with Biofuels Center staff, was necessary to achieve this outcome. It is the finding of Congress that “the use of long-term contracts can provide stability for industry, which could attract investment needed to develop alternative fuel sources.”

Caption: In order to comply with and support U.S. Department of Defense directives, Fort Bragg partnered with the Defense Energy Supply Center and the Army Petroleum Center to construct the Green Biofuel Superstation (above) to serve its flex-fuel fleet and other military-owned equipment.

Center presents at January soil science conference

Earlier in January, Biofuels Center staff and partners participated in the annual Soil Science Society of North Carolina meeting. More than 100 soil scientists were in attendance at the event in Raleigh. Sam Brake, the Center’s director of farming, provided an overview of the Center’s mission to develop the biofuels sector in North Carolina. His presentation also included information on the Center’s sprayfield project, which is intended to develop proper agronomic rates for the growing and management of energy grasses on swine sprayfield lands.

Dr. Ron Gehl, a soil science professor at N.C. State University who is leading the research on the Center’s sprayfield project, also presented at the conference. Dr. Gehl’s presentation included information on some of the energy grasses included in the project, such as Switchgrass and Giant Miscanthus. The five-year project includes trial plots in Sampson, Duplin, and Wayne counties.

Center assists with national 4-H biofuels curriculum development

575px-4h_emblem.svgThe Biofuels Center is assisting with the development of a national biofuels curriculum by 4-H. The curriculum development is being led by North Carolina due to its strong program, good agricultural universities and extension services, and biofuels leadership as a result of programs already rolled out by the Biofuels Center and other organizations. 

The project to develop the middle school curricula is being led by Amy Chilcote, the Extension Associate Curriculum Lead and K-12 Outreach Coordinator for 4-H Youth Development and Family at N.C. State University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Chilcote says that the goal of the Biofuels Curriculum Project is to develop a middle school level experiential curriculum. A goal of the project is to excite kids through their experiences to enjoy and appreciate science. Young people will perform experiments that use the same techniques and materials as scientists studying biofuels, prompting interest in agricultural and biofuels careers. Biofuels production careers will be explored in the production of biofuels. The curricula will be tested in North Carolina before being rolled out nationally.

The meeting was attended by extension agents, N.C. State University biofuels teaching staff, 4-H, curricula development specialists, and a representative from BP, which is helping fund the project. Biofuels Center staff spelled out to the first meeting of the group the programs the Biofuels Center has already put in place at high schools in North Carolina, community college biofuels programs, and other educational programs either already under way or being planned.

4-H is a youth organization administered by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture of the USDA with about 6.5 million members from ages 5-19 years of age in about 90,000 clubs. Its name represents four personal development areas of focus for the organization: head, heart, hands, and health.