Adam Putnam: Florida 'Well-Positioned for Renewable Energy'

By: Jim Turner | Posted: October 11, 2012 3:55 AM

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam remains high on Florida’s role to grow renewable energy despite the federal indictment of a Tampa man paid by the state to harvest energy crops.

The Tampa man’s company was one of two under investigation this summer that had been awarded grants as part of the 2009 federal stimulus collectively worth up to $2.5 million.
Adam Putnam at Economic Club of Florida

Adam Putnam at Economic Club of Florida

“Florida continues to be well-positioned for renewable energy as technologies improve and markets mature,” said Putnam, speaking Wednesday before the Economic Club of Florida at the Leon County Civic Center.

“When you look at the biomass potential of North Florida with the timber industry and the year-round growing season of South Florida, not to mention things like the sun and the proximity to the Gulf Stream.”

Putnam’s comments come on the heels of the indictment last month of William A. Vasden Jr., president of USCJO Inc., which claimed to grow fuel- and energy-producing crops.

Putnam, who backed HB 7117 in the spring which distributed more than $100 million in taxpayer subsidies to the renewable energy industry, announced in July that a Florida-based energy company that received money through President Obama’s stimulus package was under investigation by state and federal officials for fraud.

At the time, Putnam did not announce the name of the company, which was one of two based in Florida awarded state and federal grants for energy development programs that were being looked at for criminal fraud by the FBI and Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

The fraud was uncovered as part of an operational audit conducted by the state Office of Inspector General of the grants administered by the Office of Energy, created in 1975 and moved under the state Department of Agriculture in July 2011.

Putnam said Wednesday that such fraud as was uncovered at USCJO or the California-based Solyndra, along with the discovery of a century's supply of natural gas within the United States, were reasons a “chill” has gone into the private investment of renewable energies.

Solyndra received a fast-tracked stimulus loan from the Obama administration in 2010, only later to declared bankruptcy.

Most of the Florida grant programs, including the federal stimulus allocations, were begun when the office was under the watch of former Gov. Charlie Crist.

“Our folks did good work identifying something that didn’t seem right, turned out not to be right; the FBI and U.S. attorney came up with 31 counts,” Putnam said.

Putnam said the state halted pending payment on the two grants once the fraud was detected.

Vasden of USCJO, which never received any of the $500,000 grant from the Florida Energy Office, told potential investors he was from a farming family that owned more than 60,000 acres in the Sunshine State that was selling crop to consumers and the U.S. military.

Vasden requested the grant be withdrawn after the state visited the site as part of its audit.

The other company for which the state requested a federal investigation is Fernandina Beach-based ARI Green Energy Inc., which promised to build 175 jobs through solar and wind energy systems in Hamilton County.  

ARI, awarded $2.5 million, received $738,401 before the state cut the tap.

The company filed for bankruptcy in March.

Reach Jim Turner at or at (772) 215-9889.

Comments (5)

6:56PM OCT 11TH 2012
"When you look at the biomass potential of North Florida...."

When I look at the potential of biomass I look at it as a future source of mulch, fertilizer, and then topsoil- not as a fuel to burn.
11:54AM OCT 11TH 2012
Just to be clear here, Putnam is the one who busted the fraud perpetrated by Charlie Crist's programs. He is to be commended for that. Hopefully they can hang this stuff around Crist's neck.

As for Putnam's support for renewable energy, I'm not sure what the hostility of those 2 commenters is about. Biofuels have been used in America for 3 decades and they employ Americans, as opposed to a bunch of darn middle easterners and South American dictators. And we need to make more of it and GTHO of foreign oil.

I havent hear putnam mention one word in support of expensive solar stuff. Its all been supporting farmers and their potential. Glad we have an Agriculture commissioner who values agriculture and not one of these wreckless libertarian idiots that thinks we should be dependent on nutjob banana republics for their oil and for their food.

Buy American!
Dorothea De Luca
11:38AM OCT 11TH 2012
Our tax payer's money at work. Another Utopian scheme gone array.
Stephen Hunter
7:43AM OCT 11TH 2012
Unfortunately Adam Putnam, even though he seems to be a bright man, seems to suffer from the same delusions as Obama, that he knows better than anyone else. He also wants to increase his power, increase government, and has Florida acting just like the EPA and the rest of the executive branch of the federal government. He is very arrogant and thinks he is always right, even when things are pointed out to him that he is wrong. This man needs to be retired from public service as soon as possible.
6:46AM OCT 11TH 2012
I do not trust Adam Putnam one bit. He wants to control all the land. We need someone who will respect and protect property rights.

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