North Carolina is to biomass what Saudi Arabia is to oil, in the opinion of some people, and state legislators will receive a nine-point plan on how to turn that potential into an energy industry on Tuesday.

“Some people have called North Carolina the Saudi Arabia of biomass because of the vast acreage of fields that could be planted with energy crops,” said Barry Teater, director of corporate communications for the North Carolina Biotechnology Center. “We also have a tremendous amount of wood waste.

“We could be a great source for biofuel stocks.”

The Biotechnology Center, which is located in Research Triangle Park, is one of several participants in creating the strategic plan for development of a biofuels industry across the state. The 16-page document highlighting nine specific proposals will be presented to the General Assembly’s Environmental Review Commission.

With oil prices at $60 a barrel and regular gasoline selling for $2.50 a gallon, interest has grown considerably in alternative fuels. President Bush, for example, has called for the U.S. to greatly increase its use of bio-based fuels such as ethanol.

The General Assembly mandated the creation of the biofuels plan last summer, and the Biotechnology Center hired a leader for what is called the “Strategic Plan for Biofuels Leadership.”

Teater declined to discuss specifics of the plan. But he noted that North Carolina has a chance to become a leader in development of a biofuels industry just as it did more than 20 years ago when the Biotechnology Center was created. North Carolina has one of the nation’s largest biotech clusters.

“This is home-grown stuff,” Teater said of the ingredients for biofuel.

Biofuels could be produced from such things as switchgrass, canola and perhaps even kudzu. Research into use of wood products for cellulosic-based ethanol has also shown promise.

Unlike biotechnology, which has largely been located in urban settings such as the Triangle and Triad, a biofuels industry would benefit rural areas, Teater added.

“There are opportunities across the state,” he said.

The state already is home to a fledgling biofuels industry.

Novozymes, which has its U.S. headquarters and a production plant in Franklinton, is a leader in enzyme research for turning biomass into ethanol.

“Cellulosic ethanol is on the way,” Teater said, “and we have to be prepared to jump on it.”

Spring Hope Biofuels is planning to convert a wood production facility in Spring Hope into a cellulosic ethanol plant. Other biofuel plants are also planned in Beaufort, Martin and Cumberland Counties. A co-op in Pittsboro is already producing biodiesel fuel.

More than 70 people and several organizations were involved in the writing of the plan.

“This plan is intended to make sure we are doing the right things to seize this opportunity,” Teater explained.

The five principal people involved in writing the plan were Billy Ray Hall of the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center, Steven Burke of the Biotechnology Center, Johnny Wynne of N.C. State University, Ghasem Shahbazi of N.C. A&T, and Norris Tolson of the N.C. Department of Revenue.