Camelina isn’t a household word. Neither is biofuel. But the two words combined add up to an eco-friendly, Montana-grown commodity that can help feed livestock and ease the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels.
Camelina sativa, a sleeper oilseed crop, is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, the heart-healthy nutrients that many humans these days ingest via fish oil supplements. Camelina also produces relatively low-cost biofuel while requiring less use of fossil-fuel-laden fertilizers and toxic herbicides, supporters say. More to the point, the Navy recently bought 40,000 gallons of camelina-based jet fuel last year from a Montana supplier who says camelina jet fuel reduces carbon emissions by more than 80 percent compared to the petroleum variety.
Even Governor Schweitzer loves camelina, according to (yes, there is such a thing) Biodiesel Magazine.
With that as a backdrop, here’s the news: the Food and Drug Administration this week approved camelina concentrations of up to 10 percent in cattle feed. And Montana growers are celebrating.
Sustainable Oils, which claims the largest camelina research program in the nation and has a number of Montana growers, says the FDA decision paves the way for camelina markets to expand, expanding sustainability along the way. “The more customers we have, the more stable the business becomes,” Scott Johnson, Sustainable Oils general manager, told Billings Gazette reporter Tom Lutey.
Protein-rich camelina is not only good fuel for jets (and potentially for commercial airliners). It also “encourages healthy weight gain” in cattle, according to Lutey. And if the fans are right, it’s a gain for the rest of us, too.