Using hemp as fuel has been a hot debate for decades. However, is hemp a viable energy source, or just a pipe dream?
Hemp is touted as a renewable energy source easily generated on our own home turf, thus possibly alleviating dependence on foreign oil. Energy independence would give the country’s economy a boost, as would the increase in farming and trucking jobs in rural areas.
Concerning the “green” aspects of hemp, in comparison to most other annual crops, it requires less herbicide and pesticide application. It is also a great alternative rotation crop, preserving and replenishing the farmland’s nitrates. When grown on a large scale, hemp will strike a balance in CO2 emissions as the plant “breathes” CO2, and when burned as a fuel source emits equal amounts of it.
The process of pyrolysis (a refining technique in which heat is applied to the plant in order to convert it to fuel oil) can be employed in current fossil fuel oil refining facilities using similar technology. Pyrolysis facilities, however, must be located within 50 miles of the crop field in order to be cost-effective.
Productivity is another dispute in which hemp “experts” cannot agree. Supporters claim hemp yields as high as 1,000 gallons per acre. The Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance, however, reports standard yields at 27-36 gallons per acre; half as much as that of canola or peanut plants, two of many other fuel oil sources. With overall cost at $25 per gallon, opponents of hemp fuel do not view it as the most lucrative option. Note that biofuels can be produced from any plant oil or animal fat.
Fact is that Hemp is a very resistant plant which can grow in various climates and weather conditions. So what is the argument against the use of Hempoline? At the base of it all lays the fact that that Hemp is an illegal crop the the United States, mainly because of the crop confusion with Cannabis sativa. Without the support of the U.S. there still is a far way to go. Industrial hemp grown for biomass contains very little, dismissable, thc levels. Hemp can not be used as marijuana and the production process of cannabis plants involves a specialised breed of feminine seeds.
Since the U.S. is slowly coming around, and as we continue to deplete the current store of fossil fuels, the role of biofuels may increase to “starting lineup” status in the world economy. With a variety of climates and crop options, hemp may or may not be the next MVP going head to head against electricity.