For the past three decades, Brazil has become energy independent, based largely on its thriving ethanol industry.

Leticia Phillips represents UNICA, Brazil’s largest sugarcane industry association. At the conference in Tifton, she said it is a myth that Brazil is destroying the rainforest to produce sugarcane for fuel. Sugarcane requires a dry season to grow and doesn’t do well in rainforest climates.

China wants to grow to where the U.S. and Brazil are in alternative energy production, said Shi-Zong Li, deputy director at the Institute of New Energy Technology, Tsinghua University.

The country, which already depends on foreign oil for about half of its energy supplies, faces ever-increasing energy demands.

Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black, speaking during lunch, said his department is the frontline regulator of gasoline and ethanol in the state. There is a 2.8 percent failure rate with ethanol content in Georgia, because products are not hitting the ethanol content they claim to contain.

Asked if this was a good or bad rate, Black said the department didn’t know. This is the first time they’re measuring ethanol content. They now, however, have a good benchmark to measure from.

“If we want to continue to grow alternative energy in the state, we must make sure consumers are confident with the products we have now,” Black said.

Other topics at the three-day conference included understanding global markets, emerging energy crops for the Southeast, producing ethanol efficiently and creating bioenergy coalitions.

It also included a public forum that brought public and private industry leaders together to discuss the future of energy in Tifton and southwest Georgia.

“What we want to do is bring the experts from across the world to Tifton so folks in the Southeast can really get a feel for what’s going on and keep abreast of the opportunities in bioenergy and alternative energy around the world and locally,” said Craig Kvien, a UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences professor and one of the conference’s organizers.