Friday, August 13, 2010

Do We Have Fuel Feedstock Production In Our Future?

I spent three days this week at the 5th Farm to Fuel Summit in Orlando.  This is the fourth time I have attended the conference, which is sponsored by FDACS.

This year there seemed to be more biorefineries, engineers and consumers ready for feedstocks to produce either biodiesel or ethanol.  I heard about processes to produce fuel from woody biomass, energy crops, algae and much more.

This conference is important to attend because I want to be able to bring back new ideas to the farmers of Sumter County.  Right now, the farmer would be assuming the risk of trying a new crop, figuring out how much inputs are needed to get the best yield, finding harvest equipment, making a profit.  Growing feedstocks for fuel is so new in Florida we don't have many answers for producers yet.

Hopefully some answers will come soon, because one thing I heard this week over and over is that Florida is the ideal state for production of biofuels.  We are #3 in ethanol consumption in the country and also in number of vehicles.  Our climate is ideal for producing many of the crops needed and we have a good source of biomass.

Some crops to consider: both sweet and cellulosic sorghum, sunflower, switchgrass, eucalyptus, gamma grass and camelina.  Another interesting possibility is not only producing the crops for fuel but producing the much needed seed to sell to other producers. Each crop is being analyzed by the EPA to determine the comparative carbon emissions from seed to fuel, and funding to assist producers with the lowest carbon producing  crops should come from federal sources as a result. 

I didn't get the impression that farmers would get rich from producing feedstocks for fuel, but encouraged by the possibility of agriculture playing such an important role in reaching the goal of 36 billion gallons/year of biofuels produced in the US by 2022.