Steven Burke, chief executive officer at the N.C. Biofuels Center, is incredulous as he talks about N.C. General Assembly budget plans that – if passed as proposed – will deep six the state’s efforts to build an energy industry based on agricultural products and by-products such as grease from foods.

“This is unprecedented,” says Burke, referencing the House and Senate budgets that call for defunding the Biofuels Center, which received just over $2 million last year.

Never before, he says, has the state pulled the fiscal rug out from under a non-profit organization geared to “carry out the will of the state.”

Burke knows the hazards of state funding. Before taking over as CEO of the Biofuels Center, which launched five years ago, he spent 25 years at the North Carolina Biotechnology Center. That organization has taken its own budget hits over the years and faces a possible 50 percent – if not more – cut in its budget this year as well.

The state budget allocation is the Biofuels Center’s “only source of funding,” Burke says. Some $2.4 million from a settlement the Center received last year was a one-time infusion, he says.

To keep the Center open, Burke has been in touch with politicians in Raleigh. So far, he says, “nothing useful” has resulted.

The Biofuels Center also had been eyed as a cost-cut item by Gov. Pat McCrory, but Burke noted the governor’s plan only called for a 20 percent reduction.

Burke says he can’t believe that politicians want to scuttle “five years of work to build North Carolina as a biofuels center. North Carolina has tremendous potential. This not only can benefit our agricultural areas but also technology.”

For example, North Carolina is the North American headquarters home for Novozymes, which is a global leader on enzyme production used for such products as ethanol. RTI International is building a facility for bioufels research. And the Biofuels Center recently awarded some $700,000 in grants to for boosting startups as well as research.

In a recent interview with the Southeast Agriculture & Forest Energy Resources Alliance, Burke touted North Carolina’s efforts.

“We’re the nation’s only comprehensive biofuels agency, and I say that more out of surprise than for the purpose of touting North Carolina,” he said. “Targeted, incisive long-term thinking is needed for change…towards an ultimate goal of national competitiveness in a significant, long-term sector.”

As The Skinny noted earlier this week, the Democratic Party dominated General Assembly funded the Biofuels Center with an initial appropriation of $5 million in 2007. The goal of the Center has been to help the state produce 10 percent of its needed fuel from bio-related sources.

Republicans now run both houses, and McCrory is a Republican.

Some Republicans have targeted sustainable energy for a rollback, especially a bill that would undue mandates for utilities to increase usage of alternative fuels.

Biofuels apparently are next.