All the talk about peak oil dismisses biofuels by focusing on corn and ignoring hemp. For example: Biofuels are good-and-fine as long as there is plenty of oil to burn. Getting a massive feedstock of corn husks to create biodiesel can only be done within the hydrocarbon intensive world of petro-farming. Once hydrocarbons are removed from the picture, try harvesting all of that corn by hand. Try not using petroleum-based pesticides and see what your yield will be. Try finding a replacement for the commercial fertilizers that are derived from natural gas. But it gets better…Hemp is a high yield C-4 photosynthesis plant. Hemp can boast a higher oilseed yield than any of today’s oilseed crops (soy, canola or safflower). And if you wanted to power every single truck in America (excluding cars) with biodiesel you would have to cover the entire nation’s surface with crops dedictated to the creation of fuel. Biofuels are great for recycling, not for fueling a massive society of over-consumers.
Hemp can produce 10 times more methanol than corn. But there are lots of indications that hemp is superior to corn: One player in the biofuel, paper, textile, as well as many other industries, was hemp. Hemp had been grown as a major product in America since colonial times by such men as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and has had both governmental and popular support. Hemp’s long history in civilization and the multitude of products that can be derived from this single plant has made it one of the most valuable and sustainable plants in the history of mankind. More importantly to the biofuel industry, hemp provided the biomass that Ford needed for his production of ethanol. He found that 30% hemp seed oil is usable as a high-grade diesel fuel and that it could also be used as a machine lubricant and an engine oil.
In the 1930′s, the industrialists entered the picture. William Randolph Hurst, who produced 90% of the paper in the United States, Secretary of Treasury, Andrew Mellon, who was a major financial backer for the DuPont Company which ha d just patented the chemical necessary to process wood pulp into paper, the Rockefellers, and other “oil barons”, who were developing vast empires from petroleum, all had vested interest in seeing the renewable resources industry derailed, the hemp industry eliminated, and biomass fuels derided. A campaign was begun to discredit hemp. Playing on the racism that existed in America, Hurst used his newspapers to apply the name “marijuana” to hemp. Marijuana is the Mexican word for the hemp plant. This application along with various “objective” articles began to create a fear. By 1937, these industrialists were able to parlay the fear they created into the Marijuana Tax Act. This law was the precursor to the demise of the hemp industry in the United States and the resultant long reaching effect on the biofuel, petroleum and many other industries. Within three years, Ford closed his biofuel plant.
At the beginning of World War II, the groundwork for our current perceptions of biofuels was in place. First, the diesel engine had been modified, enabling it to use Diesel #2. Second, the petroleum industry had established a market with very low prices for a residual product. Third, a major biomass industry was being shut down. Corn farmers were unable to organize at that time and provide a potential product to replace hemp as a biomass resource. Finally, industries with immense wealth behind them were acting in concert to push forward their own agenda – that of making more wealth for themselves. It is interesting to note that, during World War II, the United States government launched a slogan campaign, “Hemp for Victory”, to encourage farmers to plant this discredited plant. Hemp made a multitude of indispensable contributions to the war effort. It is also interesting that, during World War II, both the Allies and Nazi Germany utilized biomass fuels in their machines. Despite its use during World War II, biofuels remained in the obscurity to which they had been forced. http://www.ybiofuels.org/bio_fuels/history_biofuels.html
Ethanol — ethyl alcohol, currently produced by fermenting cornstarch from kernels — is gradually replacing toxic Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether (MTBE) in the United States as a high-octane, pollution-reducing gasoline additive. As a source for ethanol, corn kernels are economically viable only because of high federal subsidies. In the next two to five years, the energy-efficient production of ethanol from cellulosic biomass such as wheat and rice straw, hemp, flax, and corn stalks will become commercially viable. This process also generates much lower overall emissions of the greenhouse gas CO2, and because most automobile engines can run on 15:85 ethanol:gasoline blends without modification, ethanol will help nations worldwide meet their greenhouse gas reduction goals. Hemp grown for both seed and biomass has a stalk yield of up to 3.5 tons per acre, which would make it an economical source of cellulose for ethanol production. Farmers in the Midwest could welcome hemp as a pofitable addition to their marginally profitable soybean and corn rotations.
You drive the car out of the garage and wave goodbye, then head down the road, past tall stands of hemp alternating with alfalfa, corn and other crops. It’s great that the community industrial center is not too far away, yet you can still feel like you live out in the country. Since most of the car is made of lightweight re-fabricated vegetable matter instead of steel, it doesn’t use much fuel, and that new hemp-ahol blend works great. What will they think of next?