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Orlando Playing Host to ‘Farm to Fuel’ Summit

For the first time since lawmakers turned the lights out on a proposed clean energy standard for public utility companies, renewable energy will be seriously on the agenda for Florida’s power players this week.

The biggest stakeholders in bio-energy will gather in Orlando for the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services' fourth annual "Farm to Fuel" summit starting this evening. Agriculture, government, academic, technology, and financial leaders will discuss the state of the development of what most experts agree is the most available clean energy type in Florida and where it should be headed at the conference through Friday afternoon.

They will be joined by Gov. Charlie Crist and Agricultural Commissioner Charlie Bronson, who are both champions of renewable energy and are scheduled to address the gathering Thursday morning.

Workshop topics scheduled for the summit will include biofuels research and design, commercialization and the development of cellulosic ethanol from Florida sugarcane, discussions Bronson said were long overdue.

"With each passing day, the need for alternative sources of fuel and energy becomes more critical," Bronson said in a statement this month. "Florida has the greatest potential for biomass production in the country, and the technology exists to convert natural resources to produce clean, alternative fuel. Thanks to our mild climate, ample sunshine and abundant rainfall, there's no reason why Florida cannot out produce every other state in renewable energy production and be a model for others to follow."

Bronson also said that enthusiasm for renewable energy has not taken a hit with the state’s economy, which has been on a sustained downward turn.

Just as excited as Bronson about the upcoming summit are environmentalists who lobbied the Legislature to require power companies to produce more electricity from renewable and clean sources like biofuel. Eric Draper, deputy director of Audubon Florida and a candidate to replace Bronson when he’s term-limited next year, agreed the potential for biofuels in Florida was as vast as the state itself.

"Florida can supply much of our energy needs on farms and rooftops,” Draper wrote in an E-mail to campaign supporters this week. “Rather than place our coastal economy at risk with drilling, we should promote the production of clean and renewable energy on farmlands and in our cities.”

Draper added that he hoped the Farm to Fuel summit would help shift the focus of the House from oil drilling off the Gulf Coast toward renewable energy. The plan championed by Draper and other environmentalists made it through the full Senate last session, but was not taken up by the House.

"It makes no sense in this day and age that Florida would pass up an opportunity to make full use of its farms and open lands to develop energy and jobs,” Draper said. “The rest of the world is leaving Florida behind.”

5 Responses »

  1. i seem to remember Draper, and his group, fighting the ag industry tooth and nail during the drought about releasing water from Lake O for crop production. Will he feel the same way if that crop is used, not for food, but for biofuel? Can we, as responsible family farmers, trust a guy who has spent his life fighting us, to represent us? I sure as heck don't think so, and would love to hear his response to this question.

  2. Florida_farmer, I see you are at it again! Every time Draper gets some press you pull out the attacks. Why don't you just let everyone know you are a Putnam supporter and be done with it?

  3. No, I am not a Putnam supporter. I am however, scared to death of Draper becoming sec of ag and consumer services. And I am also somewhat disgusted he uses his bully pulpit at Florida Audubon to run for an elected office. I guess they don't care much about the jeopardy he is putting their 503(c) status in.

  4. oh, and by the way, you never answered my question Betsy - merely accused me of being a putnam supporter. in your opinion, Will mr draper "...feel the same way (about releasing water for ag) if that crop is used, not for food, but for biofuel?"