Power to Plastics! Hemp Power!

ford-hemp-car-smHenry ford, you were so close.  While the early Ford championed all sorts of methods of making ethyl alcohol, one of those means was hemp.  Like I stated a few days ago, one of the magic numbers for hemp is its high percentage of cellulose (the key ingredient for conversion into alcohol or other fuels.  Ford created a hemp car that used hemp fibers in construction and ran on ethyl alcohol made from hemp.  Momentum was gathering quickly for the natural and sustainable fuel revolution.  Then oil, backed by powerful people and upstart companies like Dupont, stormed onto the scene.  And you know the rest.  Bit of a pisser, but what are you gonna’ do.Now the beauty of petrol is its high efficiency.  Biodiesel and other products usually don’t come close in conversion — too much energy is wasted.  But it has just been recently when we have begun to realize that the nature of the waste is just as or more important than the amount.  And what do you know?  Hemp sequesters just as much carbon as it is grown that it puts off when it is burned.  So instead of burning ancient piggy banks of dead dinosaur carbon we can burn only what we just captured.

Burning hemp based fuels also has the benefit of not releasing an array of other toxic chemicals.  But, the real beauty of hemp as a replacement for petroleum based products is not in the gas tank, but instead the shower, the pantry and the closet.  Before the 1930’s most of America’s paints and cosmetics were not based on petroleum but hemp oil.  Hemp actually works better for paint, especially when applied to wood.  Think about the life span of the plastic waste finding itself into the Pacific Gyre and our local landfills.  Hemp based plastics have a natural degradation rate and will return to dust when their purpose has passed.  I mean, holy shizbat.  Look around you right now at how many things you can touch made out of petroleum based plastics.

As a biofuel, hemp is probably not the answer, not by itself anyway.  Right now it is a challenge to get below a cost of $6.00 a gallon for hemp biofuel.  Now hemp waste could be used to contribute and would be better for the environment than say, rice waste (which is tough to dispose of without carbon pollution. But hemp oil can be a wonderful golden crude.  Hemp has promise as a fuel, but that discussion will have to wait.  Hemp seed can produce between 15 to 25 gallons of oil per acre.  When hemp is grown in a fuel and fiber combined manner this oil becomes very affordable and very real.

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