Global: Hemp - The Ideal Biofuel

By Green Experience

With oil prices constantly rising, the need for alternative energies is becoming greater and greater. In addition to the economic costs, the stress on the environment has been excessive, and climate change is becoming a very real threat. Therefore, we need to find a solution, and fast. Biofuels are popular, but the most utilized ones currently come from food crops, mainly corn. Using these kinds of crops for fuel reduces the overall food supply, raising prices and causing shortages. The best kind of biofuel is one that is not food, grows in abundance, and supplies large amounts of biomass. Surprisingly, the plant that fits all of these requirements is none other than hemp.

Hemp is the industrial version of the cannabis plant, and can be used in thousands of products, from paper to building materials. Most importantly, it can be converted in to fuel, and used for heating, transportation, and other energy needs. The specific process through which hemp fuel is made is pyrolysis, where high temperatures are applied to the plant in the absence of oxygen. This creates charcoal, which is a clean burning fuel that does not release sulfur (the primary cause of acid rain). Using adjusted methods, hemp can also be turned in to methanol and other oils.

Hemp is a fantastic biofuel because it grows quickly and in large quantities. An acre of hemp can produce five hundred gallons of gasoline, and in the process of its growth, hemp removes tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Some of this carbon dioxide is deposited in the ground, where it increases soil fertility and is prevented from contributing to global warming.

Grown on a large enough scale, hemp could completely fulfill all of America’s energy needs, while reversing global warming and keeping soil healthy. Currently, because of a deficiency in innovation, harvesting hemp for fuel in practice would be somewhat inefficient, which is why more advancements are needed before hemp can be utilized to a significant extent.