U.S. Senators Max Baucus (D-MT) and Jon Tester (D-MT), Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer, and representatives from state agriculture will join Targeted Growth, Inc. (TGI), a renewable energy bioscience company, and Green Earth Fuels, a vertically integrated renewable biodiesel energy company, as the two companies announce the formation of a joint venture called Sustainable Oils, Inc. at a press conference today.
The new venture will produce and market up to 100 million gallons of Camelina-based biodiesel by 2010, launching the single largest U.S. contract for the unique biodiesel-specific feedstock. Nearly all of the initial Camelina production is expected to be grown in Montana.
“This is an exciting opportunity for Montana – it represents a combining of two major thrusts of economic growth outside the boot,” said Governor Brian Schweitzer. “It is energy related and it is value-added agriculture. Having this sort of major commitment is great news.”
This joint venture sets a precedent for continued research and development of dedicated energy crops. For Montana agriculture, it means that Montana farmers now have a new way to participate in the emerging green fuel industry and a lucrative new cash crop. Camelina, a distant relative to Canola, can grow on marginal land, requires minimal water or fertilizer, and can be harvested with traditional equipment.
Targeted Growth has spent years applying its suite of yield and trait technologies to Camelina to create the first Elite Camelina Seed. Green Earth Fuels opened one of the country’s largest biodiesel production facilities this month, in Houston, and is successfully developing additional projects to provide biodiesel that meets exceptional quality and ratability standards to leading energy companies.
“This is really, really big. With gas and energy prices on the rise, climate change breathing down our neck, and instability in the Middle East, America has to do something different,” said Baucus, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. “What’s most exciting about this new project is that Montana is going to be part of the energy solution. The fertile fields of Big Sky Country will be on the cutting edge of a bright energy future for America. And not only are we developing new cleaner energy sources, we are creating jobs and boosting Montana’s economy too. I take my hat off to everyone who came together on this project and I have great faith that it’s going to surpass all expectations.”
TGI has been perfecting Camelina for the past three years in greenhouse and field trials. Specifically, it has used non-transgenic molecular-assisted breeding programs to create a crop that is well suited to Montana’s climate and soil and that produces high-quality biodiesel.
“We have created a better feedstock for biodiesel,” said Tom Todaro, CEO of Targeted Growth. “Camelina can be rotated with current Montana crops, it grows in land with lower agricultural value, and it doesn’t significantly increase the use of fertilizer or irrigation water. We think this will be a model for the development and use of other biofuel-specific crops.”
Headquartered in Houston, Texas, Green Earth Fuels is a national leader in the production and distribution of environmentally sound biodiesel with a vertically integrated business model representing end-to-end fuel production. Green Earth Fuels operates production and distribution sites that are independently located within existing petrochemical infrastructures in key U.S. coastal locations, improving industry integration and providing dedicated access to a nationwide production network alongside well-situated distribution channels. The company develops and invests in the production of new feedstock crops and adheres to best practices farming of current crops to promote feedstock sustainability, maximize processing benefits, and minimize environmental impacts.
“This deal allows us access to a high-quality feedstock at an extraordinarily competitive price,” said Green Earth Fuels CEO Greg Bafalis. “There’s an advantage to being vertically integrated – it closely aligns our interests with those of our feedstock suppliers. And because Camelina exists outside of the traditional commodity market, it should not be as volatile as other feedstocks.”
“If I had a bit more time on my farm, I’d plant some Camelina myself,” said Sen. Tester, who earlier this year sponsored legislation to provide federal crop insurance for Camelina. “Montana is on the verge of becoming a worldwide leader in renewable energy development with our potential for biofuels and our wind, solar and geothermal resources. All it takes is a little hard work and innovation, and that’s what’s happening here today.”
“We believe there is a tremendous opportunity to use bioscience in a positive way to create U.S.-grown feedstocks that don’t compete with food crops, that minimize environmental impacts on our lands, and that create a truly sustainable and renewable fuel industry,” said Todaro. “Our partnership with Green Earth Fuels is the first step on that journey.”