Published on 11/21/12

UGA's Southeast Energy Options Conference features Jimmy Carter and alternative energy experts

By Merritt Melancon

TIFTON, Ga. — From wood pellet and biodiesel production or mining landfills for methane to running county patrol cars and busses on everything from propane to peanut oil — Georgia has become a laboratory for testing new energy technologies.

To celebrate the Southeast’s leadership roll in experimenting with new energy technologies, the University of Georgia and other Southeastern universities along with the USDA and many private sector partners are hosting the Southeast Energy Option Conference Nov. 28-30 at UGA’s Tifton Campus Conference Center.

“Our goal is to help educate people about the new technologies that are on the horizon,” said Craig Kvien, a professor of crop and soil sciences in UGA’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “Especially with the energy mix changing all the time, people need to know what’s happening now.”

Kvien, who studies energy efficiency in agriculture, helped organized this year’s conference, which features presentations by international biofuels researchers, state and local governmental officials and alternative energy entrepreneurs. Early adopters of budding energy technologies will share their stories and discuss what’s working and why, Kvien said.

Former President Jimmy Carter will open the conference via video on Nov. 28 and address the importance of considering all possible alternative energy sources as the country looks for ways to become energy independent.

“He believes we need to be independent in terms of our energy sources, and we need to use all the different forms we have,” Kvien said. “He doesn’t favor any single technology.”

The conference, originally conceived as the Georgia Bioenergy Conference, launched in 2006 as way to highlight the state’s biofuels research and entrepreneurship projects.

However, discussing only biofuels is not practical. You can’t talk about biofuels in a vacuum or as a single-shot solution to all the country’s energy problems.

“All the different energy forms interact with each other,” Kvien said. “We had originally focused on biofuels specifically, but there are other solutions out there that play into the mix.”

The organizers changed the name this year to reflect the conference’s adjustment of scope. They also changed the date so that attendees didn’t have to swelter through Tifton’s August heat to get the information they needed, Kvien said.

Anyone seeking more information about the conference should visit Registration is $175. Registration sponsorships are available for a limited number of county Extension agents and K-12 teachers and students. Contact for details.

Merritt Melancon is a public relations manager with UGA's Terry College of Business and previously served as a public relations coordinator for the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and UGA Extension.

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