May 1, 2006

FLORIDA: Citrus as Feedstock - a Farm-to-Fuel Update

Florida has crops and the will of its Farm-to-Fuel Program sponsors to become a leader in the development of an ethanol industry. Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson said April 28th:

"I know we can do it. We can have 2 million acres worth of crops for fuel if we can get enough plants built so we can turn it into ethanol. Florida can outproduce any state in the union. Thousands of acres of Florida citrus that were leveled as part of the now-defunct citrus canker eradication program could be put into production for fuel crops."

Below are some excerpts that appeared in a story that contained an interview with Craig Evans, president of Stewardship America Inc. in Boca Raton.

Florida Has Future in Alternative Energies
By Kevin Bouffard
The Ledger

A study done earlier this year for the Polk County Farm Bureau suggests the county could land in the center of the alternative-fuel revolution.

"Two technologies . . . are ready for Polk County to use right now," according to a supplement on bio-fuels in the report, "The Contribution of Agribusiness to Polk County, Florida," done by Craig Evans, president of Stewardship America Inc. in Boca Raton.

Evans suggests alternative-fuel technologies using biomass -plant and animal products -could generate a renaissance of profit for Polk's farms and ranches.

Biomass includes not only fruits, vegetables and other foods but waste products such animal manure; grass, weeds, tree limbs and other yard wastes; and tons of citrus peels and pulp from Florida's juice-processing plants.

Until gas prices began heading toward $3 a gallon, ethanol could not compete without federal subsidies. Most ethanol is produced from Midwestern corn.

Even with subsidies, U.S. ethanol production this year will total 3.4 billion gallons, or about 2.3 percent of 145 billion gallons of gasoline consumed annually, Evans said.

How can new technologies change that?

Most ethanol production today comes from a standard fermentation process similar to the production of whiskey and other potable grain alcohols, Evans said.

"Sugar fermentation has, thus far, been the only technology to commercially produce ethanol from biomass, but it is only marginally profitable," Evans said.

Evans supports a new technology called BRI, named for the Arkansas company Bioengineering Resources Inc. that developed it.

The BRI process has an advantage in that it uses not only agricultural products and wastes but anything containing hydrocarbon, such as plastics and tires, Evans said.

"This technology converts any organic waste or hydrocarbon into ethanol," he said. "It also creates low-cost electricity as a byproduct."

That offers the potential to convert garbage now stored in landfills at the cost of millions of dollars to local governments into a valuable product, Evans said.


During past energy crises, Americans showed interest in alternative energy, but it faded once the crisis passed.

On April 18, 1977, President Jimmy Carter gave a nationally televised speech on his new energy policy geared toward conservation and developing alternative fuels.

"This difficult effort will be the `moral equivalent of war,' " Carter said.

Critics derisively labeled the policy by the acronym MEOW. Only his proposal for a strategic petroleum reserve became a reality.


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