The Pennycress cropping strategy does not compete with food crops for land and would not have global “Indirect Land Use” impacts. Growing Pennycress will create thousands of jobs in the processing and transportation sectors while adding significant income to farmers stimulating rural economic development.
While the natural range of Pennycress is much of North America, the strategy is to develop this non-food energy crop in the upper Mid-west corn belt where approximately 40 million acres planned for soybeans are left bare and unused during the winter each year. This land is available for growing a dedicated energy crop as a winter annual that also serves as a cover crop. Because this is high quality land already in cultivation and under effective resource management, no marginal, environmentally sensitive or land reserved for environmental conservation purposes would be involved.
The National Biodiesel Board (NBB) summarizes studies that demonstrate that soybean biodiesel results in 78% reduction of life-cycle carbon dioxide as compared to petroleum diesel. Pennycress has fewer chemical and energy inputs and produces twice the oil per acre as soybeans. This environmental benefit would be enhanced with savings coming from production factors and transportation savings alone. The NBB also reports on cradle to grave analyses showing that soybean biodiesel reduces waste water 79% and reduces hazardous waste production by 96% compared to petroleum diesel. Again, Pennycress would be expected to meet or exceed these benefits.
Net energy gains of soybean biodiesel are reported by the NBB to be 4.5 units returned to one expended. With twice the oil content to produce biodiesel and additional biofuel produced from the seedcake bio-oil, Pennycress is expected to have a net energy value of greater than 10 units.
Recently reported lifecycle analyses (LCA) for Camelina biodiesel can also be used as a benchmark for Pennycress. Scientists from Michigan Technological University report that Camelina biodiesel shows an 89.4% greenhouse gas reduction compared to petroleum diesel. Pennycress, with higher yields per acre, is expected to at least meet these values.