Hemp is easily the most useful crop in the world and could help us transition to a sustainable, resource abundant future. As society lurches forward, we face many challenges on multiple fronts. Perhaps the most crucial of which is our dependence on fossil fuels. Not only does this impact our economy, but it has an undeniably destructive impact on the environment as well. The best thing we can do as we prepare for our children’s future and the health of our planet is to kick our crude oil habit and the best way to do that is by cultivating hemp.
Oil Soaked Culture
Before we explore this premise, let’s tackle the Elephant in the room shall we? It is a fact that we are currently dependent on crude oil. The list of products made with petroleum ( raw crude oil) is staggering and it is highly unlikely that we will change that overnight. Does that mean we can’t transition slowly as hemp becomes more accessible on the market? Not at all. In fact, the global energy crisis demands that we transition as fast as possible, even as we use current oil reserve during the transition. Not only will this free us from our dependency on foreign oil, it will virtually eliminate waste and pollution.
Without a doubt, the largest market for petroleum is in fuel. In fact, nearly 70% of all petroleum is used for gasoline and diesel fuel and the impact on our ecosystem is devastating. Between 2012 and 2013, there were nearly 300 pipeline oil spills in North Dakota alone, releasing over 1,000 barrels of tar sand oil, not to mention the oil rig explosions worldwide, train wrecks and the infamous BP oil rig disaster. All of this is ample evidence that here is no safe way to extract or transport crude oil. The effects on the environment are long lasting and catastrophic. Even now, four years after the infamous BP oil rig disaster, dolphins and tuna are getting sick and toxic oil ‘tar balls’ are still found on the decaying shores of Louisiana, Florida and Alabama. It is advised that you do not handle this stuff without rubber gloves. Sounds harmless right?
As oil spills continue to happen across the Midwest, as we see developed nations covered in layers of cancer causing smog, and as environmental disasters unfold in populated areas such as North Carolina and West Virginia, it is time to face the fact that much like a heroin junkie, our addiction to fossil fuel is slowly killing us off. It’s high time we kick the habit (no pun intended) and the best way to do that is by switching to industrial grade hemp. Let us examine the benefits hemp as compared to crude oil.
The Writing On The Wall
I could drone on about the dangers of oil, but I think we all get the picture. The environmental impact of fossil fuels can no longer be ignored. With Hemp, all of these dangers are eliminated. Hemp has no carbon footprint and has no lasting impact on the environment. Take smog, for example. Hemp Biodiesel produces 93% less hydrocarbons than petrol (a major contributor of smog) and the plant actually extracts C02 from the air, returning it the soil, further reducing pollution and creating a closed cycle in which the emissions produced into the atmosphere, are then consumed by hemp, thereby reducing greenhouse gasses by nearly 50%.
As if that were not enough reason to convert to hemp oil, hemp actually produces 30% more ethanol that the corn crops currently advocated by the US government and big oil companies. When steam treated, it produced 50 Percent more fuel than corn ethanol. Sounds pretty good so far, but here’s the real kicker: when hempseed oil is converted to biomass diesel, it yields 97% useable fuel. It burns at a lower temperature, requiring less energy to turn the engines.
Yes We Can
Most naysayers have used tired and unfounded criticisms as to why the plant cannot be used as a reliable fuel source. Chief among them is that we can’t possibly grow enough hemp to meet demand. Lest dismantle that argument, shall we?
Consider that it only takes about 6% of the land to grow enough hemp to replace petroleum based fuels. Let’s break that down. Hemp is a low moisture, high cellulose crop which is ideal for liquid bio fuels. In fact, Hemp is 75% cellulose, a chemical easily converted to alcohol based fuel. This makes it the best candidate for biofuels known to man. When properly treated, 1 acre of hemp can produce 300 gallons of ethanol. Using 6% of available land, that totals roughly 135,000,000 acres adding to about 40.6 billion gallons per yield. The crop would renew itself every 100 days or so, tripling that output to about 122 billion gallons per year. In 2012, we used 133 billion gallons of gas. That seems like a significant dent in petroleum consumption to me.
Alternative Growing Methods
I know what you’re thinking. “Hey, we still have 11 billion gallons to replace!” The good news is that we have a perfectly viable solution. Vertical farms. The concept of vertical farming is quite simple. Instead of planting on flat fields, you erect buildings dedicated solely to agriculture, with each story used to grow crops, in which plants can be arranged for maximum yield. Plus, vertical farms are self-contained ecosystems that are highly efficient, using less water than traditional farming methods. And with selective breeding we can grow strains that provide more seeds and more cellulose. Even with modest dimensions, we can increase acreage exponentially using less land. Of course each building can be as high as technology allows, providing maximum acreage with minimal land use. Now, let’s pretend that we only have 5% of the land open for hemp farming. If, using vertical farms, we can double the acreage, that brings us to 225 billion gallons of gas. That’s a hundred billion gallons excess fuel we could either sell to other countries or use for other products like cleaning agents, paints thinners, plastics, you name it. Plus, unlike petrol, the waste can be used as pulp, clothing, and mulch. The possibilities are endless.
The Knights Who Say Nay
The only thing getting in the way of full scale production are the cries of the naysayers and red tape surrounding ludicrous drug laws restricting hemp cultivation. Critics claim growing hemp will increase the use of marijuana. Even on the face, that complaint is ridiculous. That is like saying driving cars encourages alcoholism. Hemp is not a drug, and contains less that 1% THC, the psychotropic substance found in Cannabis Sativa, or marijuana. Furthermore, Hemp actually sterilizes Cannabis, making it completely worthless as a drug. This destroys the bogus claim that drug cartels will hide pot in hemp fields. So we can see that even as the public’s attitude towards the intoxicating variety of cannabis is evolving towards acceptance of the plant, these kinds of arguments are ignorant and senseless at best.
The Sustainable Future’s So Bright
As far as the bureaucratic roadblocks are concerned, they are being dismantled as we speak. It was announced late February that Hemp Inc. (who just imported their first shipment of hemp from China for US production) signed a lucrative deal with Green Concepts, an ink company that will use Hemp Inc. to source hemp based products. To further advance hemp cultivation, the 2014 farm bill that was just signed by the president, includes provisions that allow for hemp cultivation here in the U.S. in states who have passed hemp legislation. Things are looking very good for the plant indeed.
With these new developments, it seems increasingly likely that a hemp oil future is close as demand for hemp based products continues to increase. Of course, we can’t expect the oil tycoons to simply roll over for hemp, so there is still a lot of work to be done to advance hemp as a clean, sustainable, and renewable fuel source that can satisfy the U.S. demands for fuel but by supporting companies that promote hemp biofuels and sharing this information with the world, we can begin to aid in the transition.
There is no aspect of our society that will not be aided by hemp fuel production. Economically, we can create a huge boom in green fuel technology and add jobs to the market, increasing out GDP and raising the standard of living. Politically, this strikes at the very heart of liberty for all political spectrums. Conservatives love the idea of being able to grow the crop without government interference, and liberals love that is a clean renewable source of energy. Environmentally it will not only reduce carbon emissions and pollutants, (no danger of contamination in a biodegradable hemp oil spill) but it enriches the soil and cleans up the air we breathe. In short, on every front, hemp and hemp biofuels is the answer.