Saturday, July 9, 2011

Can your car run on hemp fuel?

By Jasen T. Davis

When Barack Obama became president, there was a tremendous push in the political realm to embrace green technologies and renewable energy research as an alternative to fossil fuels. Four years later, not much has changed. and the economy is a wreck.
This summer, we are facing ridiculous gas prices, pundits will blame everyone else but their own party and President Obama will give a big, fat speech. Meanwhile, corporate and political interests serving Big Oil—one our biggest fossil fuel suppliers—will continue to make a sizeable profit.
One way to wean our nation off fossil fuels is to find an alternative to gasoline for our cars. One alternative to gasoline is methanol, a type of fuel usually derived from corn oil. However, the process is difficult and doesn’t produce a lot of fuel.
Hemp can also produce methanol, and is a better choice because it grows a lot faster than corn and produces far more fuel. Corn yields an average of 1,550 liters of methanol per acre grown. Hemp yields up to 10,000 liters.
Hemp fuel is also biodegradable, burns without creating sulfur dioxide and won’t damage the environment. Hemp cellulose can be processed to create clothing, paper, plastic and feed for animals. So, where can we find a processing plant to turn hemp into oil?
A hemp biodiesel processing plant designed by New Zealand’s Bio Gas Company, Ltd. could create 300,000 barrels per day of oil from 400,000 acres of hemp—all without invading Iraq or destroying the Gulf of Mexico. Hemp methanol would cost about a dollar a gallon, compared to gasoline.
Another advantage of hemp as an alternative fuel source is the obvious local economy that would spring up around it. Processing hemp for fuel on a mass scale, including the upgrades necessary to adapt our vehicles to use hemp oil (and adapting the existing infrastructure to supply it), would provide reliable jobs throughout the country.
In 1900, Rudolph Diesel displayed his engine at the World Exhibition in Paris. The engine he demonstrated ran on peanut oil. It was only later that he developed engines to run on gasoline because it was cheap back then. Even today, it is relatively easy to modify a diesel engine to run on vegetable, corn or hemp oil.
Will we one day see a hemp car? We already can. Hemp Car (www.hempcar.org) was a project created by Grayson Sigler and Kellie Ogilvie of Canada. The point of the project was to create an automobile that ran exclusively on hemp fuel and put it to the test.
The automobile drove more than 10,000 miles from Toronto to Washington, D.C. in an effort to demonstrate the practical use of this technology. Activists and volunteers in both countries provided the hemp fuel necessary for the jaunt.
That was back in 2001, and the technology has only improved since then. The Obama administration could truly give us hope and change if it embraced hemp fuel technology.
We owe everything to fossil fuels for giving us the modern society we have today. Unfortunately, our reliance on them is simultaneously destroying our economy and the environment. Hemp fuel just might be the answer.

FUEL’S GOLD

It’s clear the folks behind the Hemp Car took their alternative fuel project seriously. Check out the project’s manifesto: “Industrial hemp would be an economical fuel if hemp were legal to cultivate in the United States. Industrial hemp has no psychoactive properties and is not a drug. Hemp Car demonstrates the concept of hemp fuels on a national level and promotes the reformation of current law.” If that doesn’t pump (ouch) you up, I don’t know what will.

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