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Marty Bowen's family offers young ethanol scholar free ride

Seventh grader Erin McCaskey was the star of the Farm-to-Fuel Summit in St. Petersburg Thursday. Her prize-winning science project "Which Alternative Fuel Produces the Most Energy" was touted by the governor and agricultural leaders as the wisdom of the next generation.

But when state Rep. Marty Bowen, the Haines City Republican leader, huddled with her citrus-farmer father, Gilbert Bowen, during lunch, the elder Bowen decided she needed more than a trophy, she needed a scholarship.

"The Bowen Family Farm would like to offer Erin a four-year scholarship to any university of her choice,'' Marty announced after the luncheon speeches. Twelve-year-old Erin blushed in surprise. Her teacher at Thomas Jefferson Middle School in Merritt Island, Dana Franklin, got teary-eyed.

"We need more people like her in this state,'' said Marty. Her father, who has raised both citrus and cattle, has always been a supporter of alternative fuels and believes it is the future for Florida, she said.

So, what was McCaskey's conclusion -- which won the top engineering award in the state science fair competition? Used peanut oil in biodiesel produced the most energy.