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Wednesday, 18 April 2007 00:00

WNC is at the forefront of the green revolution

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The expansion announced last week by Smoky Mountain Biofuels and Mountain Energy will help place Western North Carolina at the forefront of a homegrown energy industry that holds great promise for the region and the country.

 

Smoky Mountain Biofuels, which is located in the Jackson County Green Energy Park, will deliver biodiesel to 23 Mountain Energy gas stations beginning this summer. That means that this alternative fuel — which is basically a mix of diesel fuel and standard cooking oil — will be available to diesel customers throughout the mountains. Right now only 16 stations in the state offer biodiesel at the pump.

Thom Morgan, the owner of Waynesville-based Mountain Energy, decided to sign a 10-year contract with Smoky Mountain Biofuels. That deal means the biofuels company could comfortably make an investment in its infrastructure. Morgan, of course, is banking on the hope that there is growing demand for the alternative fuel by both the trucking industry and individual consumers.

“It’s just the right product at the right time,” Morgan said last week.

That’s a risk we’re glad a Western North Carolina entrepreneur is willing to make, and we believe it will pay off. Attitudes are changing, and many Americans don’t want to have to depend so much on the fluctuating world oil market. One recent buyer of a diesel engine car in Waynesville, David Francis, told The Smoky Mountain News that he did not want to be completely dependent on the capriciousness of oil companies and Middle East politics.

“We were worried that we really don’t have control over our oil and gas in our country and we felt diesel would be the safest way to go” said Francis.

So far users of biodiesel are giving it high marks. Maintenance vehicles in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park have been using the fuel for the past six months, and the word there is that the vehicles are running better than they did before the switch.

The move by Morgan and the opening last year of the Jackson County Green Energy Park — where Smoky Mountain Biofuels got its start — is all good news for the region. The Green Energy Park uses methane gases from the county’s old landfill to produce energy. Right now that energy is being used by several entities, including Smoky Mountain Biofuels. The Green Energy Park earning accolades nationwide, and Jackson County government’s investment in this project puts another Western North Carolina entity at the forefront of the alternative energy movement.

People in the mountains of North Carolina have a tradition for independence and ingenuity. It’s one of the characteristics that attracts so many interesting people to the region, and we bet it will help these green energy ventures to succeed as people make choices about how they want to live given the world’s current economic and political climate. As Thom Morgan pointed out, “it’s the right product at the right time.”

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