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Industrial hemp has been used for many purposes including food, paper, textiles and, now, as fuel. Although the world is still to move towards hemp-powered vehicles, industrial hemp is already making headlines, especially as an alternative energy source. People are now closely studying the benefits of Cannabis sativa’s low tetrahydrocannabinol strains. Universities, politicians and governments are taking a keen interest in hemp biofuel.
First, Some Background…
Henry Ford was the first person to envision hemp as an alternative to fossil fuels. The car maker built a sedan that ran on 100 percent hemp ethanol. Ford realized the potential of creating fuel from agricultural byproducts considered as waste. According to Ford, there is enough alcohol from a single year’s acre of potatoes to drive machinery for a hundred years.
Ford grew hemp on his estate and used it to create plastic composites and hemp gasoline. The plastic composites were intended for building car chassis since they were lighter and stronger than steel.
How it Works…
According to The Guardian, hemp can be used to create biodiesel and bioethanol. The product is environmentally friendlier to produce compared to corn, palm oil or sugar beet. A major advantage of hemp is that it can grow in a wide range of climatic conditions, while leaving the soils around it in a better condition than when it was first planted.
Hemp growing is remarkably easy. The plant grows quickly and requires less energy and fertilizer. It does not require chemicals after planting, and helps to offset the carbon produced by fossil fuels.
Cannabis seeds, most often discarded, contain much of the plant’s natural oil which is then turned into fuel. Industrial hemp contains viable qualities that can be used to produce biodiesel, according to University of Connecticut researchers. Graduate students at the school produced hemp biodiesel that had an efficiency conversion rate of 97 percent.
Advantages of Hemp BioFuel
Although hemp has always been an agricultural crop with many uses, its possible use as a fuel may become one of its most important properties. Right now, America is depleting much of its petroleum reserves and is purchasing fossil fuels from other countries. Having a fuel source that is renewable and that can be grown in the country, would make America energy independent.
Petroleum fuel adds carbon monoxide to the atmosphere, significantly contributing to global warming and the greenhouse effect. Fortune reports that in the next 50 or so years, if the trend continues, the world could be heading towards a global catastrophe. Should people wait to find that out, or should they grow a cost-effective and environmentally safe fuel source that sequesters carbon from the air? The use of hemp as both an energy and rotation crop is a step in the right direction.
One of the greatest benefits of hemp as a biofuel is the usefulness of every part of the plant. When oil is pressed from the seeds, hulls and seed material can be compressed to create nutritious animal feed cakes. Leaves from hemp plants and trimming from the harvest, along with the roots, replenish the soil preparing it for the next crop. Other products of industrial hemp include building materials, paper and fiber.