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Camelina, anyone?

December 19, 2011 - I'd never heard of the website known as Minyanville (http://www.minyanville.com/) before I read the article I want to discuss today.  The article, "Renewable Energy Crop Production Set to Soar in US," was first printed at oilprice.com, with no author's name shown.

Biofuels have suffered from an image problem ever since Bush II prematurely decided they were a good idea, notwithstanding the fact they were made out of food.  The resulting starvation in countries accustomed to eating corn (which is actually low in calories, or energy) has been only one side effect of our least intelligent President's passing thought.  That's why a crop called camelina will solve multiple problems, not just the shortage of jet fuel.

It's taken awhile to get biofuels up and running because of the lack of USDA federal crop insurance.  A wonder crop was needed, one that could withstand assorted growing conditions and still be a moneymaker.  A number of crops - including algae - have been tested, and camelina has passed every test, thus far, with flying colors.  As a result, investors from all corners of the globe are sitting up and taking note.

Want a crop that can withstand drought?  Camelina can do that.  What about a crop that will grow on infertile soil?  Camelina can do that, too.  A short growing season is no problem for camelina, and there is no special equipment required for harvesting this Crop For All Seasons.  The silage that remains after harvest can be fed to livestock and poultry, which increases their omega-3 content.

Now that crop insurance is available, thanks to Montana Senator Jon Tester (D), the USDA has given camelina a big thumbs up.  Trials are being arranged in 12 states, with virtually all the others waiting in the wings.  Says Sam Huttenbauer, president of Great Plains Oil and Exploration, "This is a critical step toward camelina becoming a major U.S. biofuel crop."  With camelina filling this role in the overall food and fuel supply picture, fertile soil can once again be freed up for food production.

No one thinks more highly of this development than the U.S. Air Force, which has certified camelina-based biofuel for use in its Globemaster transport aircraft.  Certainly it is my hope, as I'm sure it is yours, that biofueuls will be put to use primarily for peaceful purposes.  In the meantime, it's good to know American ingenuity is once again at work.

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