"North Carolina's on the precipice of becoming an economic powerhouse around this whole idea of advanced biofuels," Conlon says. "There's room down there to build five or six of these facilities, if and when we can figure out the right balance between environmental concerns and economic viability."
Burke notes that Arundo has been sold in the state for years as an ornamental, without any problem. To him, it's a no-brainer.
But EDF Southeast Director Jane Preyer wonders if a hurricane-prone state like North Carolina is the smartest place to grow such a crop on so large a scale. In 1999, Hurricane Floyd caused widespread flooding that put much of eastern North Carolina under several feet of water.
Arundo, she says, appears "not worth the risk."
It's naive to think man can truly control nature, says Newhouser in California.
"You know, that's the thing with weeds. They know no boundaries, and they don't recognize fences. They don't follow rules."
Allen G. Breed is a national writer, based in Raleigh, N.C. He can be reached at features(at)ap.org. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/(hash)!/AllenGBreed
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