Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise

UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School
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Kenan Institute researchers to assess economic opportunities in biofuels


Researchers at the Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise will take a comprehensive look at the economic opportunities and impacts of developing North Carolina’s biomass fuel feedstocks for domestic use and export.

Thomas Stith, the institute’s program director for economic development, will lead the study team under two research contracts with the Biofuels Center of North Carolina.

“There is an enormous focus on green energy development in the state, but there is much debate about the costs and benefits of implementing various policies and how the growth of the green sector will shape the state and national economy going forward,” Stith said. “This work will assess the tradeoffs between environmental sustainability and economic development.”

A $75,000 project, North Carolina’s Role in the Global Biomass Energy Market, will provide a comprehensive analysis of the global markets that could potentially compete for North Carolina’s woody biomass supplies. Researchers will examine the public policies affecting that market, the long-term projections for demand and pricing, the long-term effect on North Carolina biomass production and port facilities, the state’s ability to export biomass and the state’s ability to achieve biofuel goals while balancing competing markets.

A $50,000 research project, The Economic Impact of Biomass Alternatives on North Carolina’s Economy, will compare the impact of producing biomass for export with that of producing biomass as a feedstock for energy generation within the state. It will assess the respective economic output, job creation and labor income of each scenario and compare the use of hardwoods as feedstock with the use of energy grasses as feedstock.

The studies are a follow on to the Business of Biofuels project the institute conducted for the Biofuels Center to develop the complex financial model it uses to evaluate options and opportunities for developing the state’s biofuels industry using locally produced feedstocks.

The projects are part of the larger body of research the institute conducts in the full range of issues related to effectively developing alternative energy sources and developing a green economy. The institute works with public and private organizations in North Carolina and beyond to help them make strategic investments in energy development and environmental sustainability.

For more information on the project and the institute’s green economy and energy work, contact Stith at (919) 962-8444 or