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Biofuels Center issues its own obituary

The state-created Biofuels Center of North Carolina issued its own obituary today, 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, without severance payments.

The 5-year-old Oxford-based organization, which is created to help the state develop biofuels made from energy crops other than corn, lost its $4.3 million in annual funding under the reigning Republican majority in the state legislature.

Its office, with experimental plots of 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.

Now that its end is near, the center's announcement dispenses with the usual bureaucratic boilerplate and blandishments. Instead, the center characterizes its own demise as a setback for North Carolina, a competitive advantage for neighboring states and a sign of legislative myopia.

Dean speaks at Raleigh headquarters

Howard DeanDemocratic National Committee head Howard Dean said North Carolina will not be ignored.

Speaking in front of a crowd of about 100 at the state Democratic headquarters in Raleigh this morning, the former Vermont governor said that the party will reach out "to a lot of people that we haven't reached out to in a long time."

"The Democratic Party has changed a lot in 30 years, and so has the South," he said. "There is no reason for us ever to pass over a state anywhere."

The 15-minute speech was part of a "Register for Change" tour to boost presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama as well as gubernatorial nominee Beverly Perdue and Senate nominee Kay Hagan.

Touring the state in a biodiesel-fueled bus, Dean will also make stops in Greensboro and Charlotte today, aimed at signing up volunteers for voter registration efforts here.

The chairman of the Republican National Committee is expected to come in the next few weeks.

Dean, who has led a "50-state strategy" aimed at building the party around the country, told reporters afterward that the party will have a "significant effort" in North Carolina, but he would not give specifics.

"I think you'll see us play here heavily," he said.

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