May 2, 2011

Hemp & Bio Diesel by David Brannon

Here's pot writer David Brannon's most recent post for Baked Life.

Biodiesel is the name for a variety of oxygenated fuels made from vegetable oils or animal fats. Biodiesel is the only alternative fuel that runs in any conventional, unmodified diesel engine. Biodiesel can be used alone or mixed in any ratio with petroleum diesel fuel.

Biodiesel can be made from renewable crops. Corn, a human food, is currently being used to make biodiesel. Using food crops to produce fuel is a bad idea. Corn, a staple in Mexico’s diet, is now priced beyond the reach of Mexican peasants. Corn as fuel brings Mexican farmers a better price than corn as food.

Growing domestically produced renewable energy sources -- fuel – offers a variety of economic benefits. These include value added to the feedstock (oilseeds or animal fats), an increased number of manufacturing and agricultural jobs, increasing tax bases from plant / farm operations, and investments in physical plant / equipment. On top of this there is interesting evidence of improving air quality and greenhouse gas mitigation.

The crop which we should use for farming fuel is hemp -- an industrial crop that has been a friend of man for over 10,000 years. Hemp stems are 80% hurds [pulp by-product] and those hurds are 77% cellulose. Cellulose is the raw material we are after. Depending on which U.S. agricultural report is correct, an acre of full grown hemp can provide 4, 50 or even 100 times the cellulose found in cornstalks, kenaf, or sugar cane, our planets’ next highest annual cellulose plants. Hemp can produce 10 times more methanol than corn and hemp is not a food crop.

Hemp is unmatched in its’ potential as a biomass fuel source.

While estimates vary on the high end it is predicted that the hemp plant can produce 10 tons of biomass fuel, per acre, in a four month growing season. In some parts of our country two crops a year are probable, three possible. It has been calculated that if 6% of the continental U.S. landmass were being farmed with biomass crops we would need no foreign oil.

Hemp was legal and encouraged for the first 162 years of our nations’ history. The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 removed hemp as a competitor to the emerging market for petroleum based products, synthetic fibers and plastics. It’s time to revisit that decision.


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