Hemp Fuel vs. Gasoline ; 3 Reasons Hemp Can Cleanly Power the Future
When it comes to Hemp Fuel vs. Gasoline, there are 3 reasons why industrial Hemp could help us power the future.
- Methanol can be made from Hemp and would cost about a dollar a gallon.
- If Hemp were to be used as an alternative fuel source, it would provide agricultural jobs to local economies.
- 1 acre of Hemp can produce 300 gallons of oil, 3 tons of protein and 30 tons of fiber per year!
Using Hemp for Fuel
Can we use Hemp for fuel? Watch the video below to understand how Hemp is a clean energy source for the future!
Introduction to Bioenergy
For anybody that can acknowledge the serious environmental issues we are facing today, the choice between powering our lives up using a fossil fuel vs. a cleaner and more responsible alternative, is a no-brainer.
Bioenergy, a form of renewable energy, is one of many resources available that can support our demand for energy. It is derived from plant and algae-based materials, known as biomass, such as agriculture and forest residues, urban wood and food waste, and purpose-grown grasses like hemp. All these organic materials can be used to produce transportation fuels, heat, electricity, and consumer products.
Abundant and renewable bioenergy can contribute to a more secure, sustainable, and economically sound future by supplying clean energy sources, reducing dependence on fossil fuels, generating U.S. jobs and revitalizing rural economies, and saving our planet at the same time.
Now you may wonder how can the use of a plant as fuel, in our case hemp, can do all of the above? In order to answer that question, we will take an in-depth journey into all the aspects of using hemp as fuel vs. gasoline and how that affects us and our planet short and long-term.
The Consequences of Relying on Fossil Fuels
Let’s start with gasoline. Gasoline is a fossil fuel made from crude oil and other petroleum liquids. The use of fossil fuels for energy has an enormous impact on humanity and the environment – from air and water pollution to global warming. Here’s a look at what fossil fuels are, what are the consequences of extracting and using them and why it’s time to move towards a clean energy future.
Did you know that fossil fuels – petroleum, natural gas, and coal – accounted for about 79% of total U.S. primary energy production in 2018?
For more than 100 years, burning fossil fuels has generated most of the energy we need to get our cars moving, to power our businesses, and keep our homes warm and illuminated. Even today, with all the efforts to switch to renewable energy, we still rely mostly on getting our energy from fossil fuels.
At this point you may say: Yeah, so? Well, for starters there are several problems when it comes to using these fossil fuels – besides actually running out at a-not-so-far-away point in the future!
Fossil fuels are hundreds of millions of years old, but in the last 200 years consumption has increased rapidly, leaving fossil fuel reserves depleted and the climate seriously impacted. We only have a finite supply of fossil fuels. The amount we use now simply isn’t sustainable, and the problem is getting worse as the global population increases. The limited resources in the ground aren’t even the biggest problem – there are plenty of downsides to plundering the earth for these resources.
In order to extract fossil substances like coal, natural gas and, our point of interest, crude oil – better known as petroleum – from the Earth’s crust, we contribute to land degradation, water pollution and emissions. How? Well, let’s take the example of petroleum, that after a ton of operations becomes our so-longed-for gasoline.
How is a commodity like gasoline doing so much damage?
Petroleum can be found in underground reservoirs that are accessed by drilling, on land or at sea, or by strip mining. The entire process from extraction to transportation to refining takes an enormous toll on our landscapes and ecosystems. Once extracted, the oil is transported to refineries via supertankers, trains, trucks, or pipelines to be transformed into usable fuels such as gasoline, propane, kerosene, and jet fuel—as well as products such as plastics and paint.
For infrastructure, the fossil fuel industry uses vast stretches of land such as pipelines, wells, roads, as well as facilities for processing, waste storage, and waste disposal. In the case of strip mining, entire plots of land, including forests and whole mountaintops, are scraped and blasted away to uncover underground coal or oil. Even after the operations stop, the land that is now bare of nutrients will never return to what it used to be before the whole process.
Moreover, oil spills and leaks during extraction and transport can pollute drinking water sources and put entire freshwater or ocean ecosystems in danger. Meanwhile, all these operations generate enormous volumes of wastewater, which can be contaminated with heavy metals, radioactive materials, and other pollutants. Industries store this waste in open-air pits or underground wells that can leak or overflow into waterways and contaminate aquifers with chemicals linked to cancer, birth defects, neurological damage, and much more.
As a result, critical wildlife habitat, so crucial for breeding and migration, ends up fragmented and destroyed. Even animals able to leave can end up suffering, as they’re often forced into not-so-ideal habitats and must compete with existing wildlife for resources.
Now, when it comes to processing the petroleum to turn it into gasoline and other transportation fuels, we are facing another major problem – the Global Warming crisis.
Fossil fuels produce large quantities of carbon dioxide when burned due to their origin. Because they were formed from the fossilized, buried remains of plants and animals that lived millions of years ago, fossil fuels have a very high carbon content. Fossil fuels emit harmful air pollutants long before they’re burned.
Did you know that 12.6 million Americans are exposed daily to toxic air pollution from active oil and gas wells and from transport and processing facilities?
These pollutants include benzene (linked to childhood leukemia and blood disorders) and formaldehyde (a cancer-causing chemical).
Besides the mounting evidence of the practice’s serious health impacts, carbon emissions trap heat in the atmosphere and lead to climate change. In the United States, the burning of fossil fuels, particularly for the power and transportation sectors, accounts for about three-quarters of our carbon emissions. Global carbon emissions from fossil fuels account for 90% of all emissions from human activity.
It is easy to notice that one small action like buying gasoline triggers a major chain reaction that has a ton of repercussions on people, animals, the environment, and altogether life as we know it. But how much is each one of us actually contributing to this global crisis that impacts everything and everyone?
How Do Cars Contribute to the Environmental Damage?
The answer is simple: burning one gallon of gas creates 20 pounds of carbon dioxide, and the average car emits about six tons of carbon dioxide every year. And that is for 1 car. Do you know how many cars are there in the U.S. only? About 276 million!!! Now if you do the math you can easily comprehend what that number of cars means in CO2 emissions – and it is scary!
The U.S. has 30 percent of the world’s automobiles, yet it contributes about half of the world’s emissions from cars. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), motor vehicles collectively cause 75 percent of carbon monoxide pollution in the U.S. The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) estimates that on-road vehicles cause one-third of the air pollution that produces smog in the U.S., and transportation causes 27 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.
Solution to prevent global warming and avoid the worst effects of climate change? Reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and support the production and use of cleaner energy from sustainable sources instead.
In 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency pledged to reduce carbon pollution from our power plants by nearly a third by 2030 through its Clean Power Plan, the first-ever plan to curb carbon pollution through renewables and energy efficiency. Investing in clean energy creates millions of jobs across the country for people of all different skill sets and education levels, protects the health of the population and counters the real effects of climate change.
How Biofuels can Help
One of many different renewable resources available is bioenergy. It is a form of renewable energy that is derived from organic materials known as biomass, which can be used to produce biofuels to power our cars, trucks and planes.
Biofuels produce significantly fewer toxins and less carbon output. Studies show that they can reduce greenhouse gases by almost 65 percent. The carbon dioxide they emit back to the environment can be absorbed out of the atmosphere by the source plants used in biofuel production. This means they are a safer alternative to lower air pollution and to preserve atmospheric quality.
There are various ways of making biofuels, but they generally use chemical reactions, fermentation, and heat to break down the starches, sugars, and other molecules in plants. The resulting products are then refined to produce a fuel that cars or other vehicles can use.
Countries around the world are already using various kinds of biofuels. For example, Brazil has turned sugarcane into ethanol which is added to gasoline to improve octane and reduce emissions; and Europe is using biodiesel, a diesel-like fuel commonly made from palm oil. Much of the gasoline in the United States contains ethanol which is mainly derived from corn. Made by fermenting the sugars from plants, ethanol contains oxygen that helps a car’s engine burn fuel more efficiently, reducing air pollution.
The problem is that corn or soybeans or sugarcane are all feedstocks and the concept of using food or farmland to produce fuel comes with its own challenges.
Over the past few years, scientists across the country have been revolutionizing the future of fuel. Scientists and engineers at the US Energy Department and National Laboratories are finding new, more efficient ways to convert biomass into biofuels.
Did you know that the United States has the potential to produce 1 billion dry tons of non-food biomass resources annually by 2040 and still meet demands for food, feed, and fiber? One billion tons of biomass could produce up to 50 billion gallons of biofuels and provide 1.1 million jobs in the U.S.
Given the facts, you may wonder: If these bio alternatives are so great, why aren’t we just using them to produce fuel? Unfortunately, growing these plants requires the use of large volumes of water and land. Also, most crops used in biofuel production are also used as food. Now if most of these crops will be converted into fuels, it can decrease the food supply.
Hemp: The Fuel of the Future
In order to overcome these disadvantages, biofuels still require development and research. One of the most promising biofuels currently under development is hemp, and using it as the main source of ethanol, instead of food crops like wheat, barley and corn has clear advantages.
Hemp is one of the earliest cultivated plants with a history dating back to over 8000 years. Hemp fiber has a long history of use, and the seeds are not only nutritional, but have a very high oil content. Hemp, which is practically a weed, thrives on poor land and requires minimal care, yet produces nearly four times as much oil per acre as soybeans, which is currently the only crop grown on a large scale for biodiesel in the U.S.
The life cycle of the plant is three months, during which it ingests carbon dioxide at a much greater rate compared to that of trees, which makes hemp a very effective scrubber of carbon dioxide. Besides reversing the greenhouse effect, it also has the ability to extract heavy metals and pollutants from the soil which makes it the perfect candidate for a new bioenergy source. The short life cycle of hemp allows for crop rotation which is beneficial to soil regeneration.
In comparison to other biomasses, hemp is much more effective for fuel and much easier to cultivate. As mentioned, it produces nearly four times as much oil per acre as soybeans, the main crop cultivated for biofuel in the U.S. It doesn’t need as much fertilizer or water as corn, switchgrass and doesn’t require the expensive drying process like sugar cane. Moreover, hemp is more resistant to unfavorable weather and can be grown in nearly every type of soil, which means almost every country around the world can grow its own fuel source.
Taking all those benefits into account, what have made hemp not so feasible for the biofuel industry yet? The main barrier was the prohibition laws that made cultivating and using industrial hemp illegal in the U.S. for a long time.
Industrial Hemp Cultivation and What It Means to the Economy
The first signs of hope came with the 2014 Farm Bill which acknowledged the potential of industrial hemp as a commercial crop and created a framework for legal cultivation. It was followed by the Hemp Farming Act of 2018, as part of the 2018 U.S. Farm Bill, when federal government removed industrial hemp from the controlled substances that are considered dangerous and addictive in the United States.
There are still some states where hemp cultivation is illegal like Idaho or Nebraska, but the Hemp Act is currently under discussion in many of these states to revoke the ban on industrial hemp production.
This means that the local economy will thrive. Processing hemp for fuel on a large scale, including adapting our vehicles to use hemp oil (and adapting the existing infrastructure to supply it), would provide reliable jobs throughout the country. Not to mention the additional economic value, as the discarded stems can be used or sold as raw materials for a wide range of products, including car products. For example, almost all European car makers use hemp fibers to make hemp-fiberglass, interior and exterior door panels as well as trim pieces because they are lighter and bio-degradable.
But can our cars and other vehicles actually run on plant fuel? The answer is yes, and it is no novelty. In 2001 we witnessed the first automobile to ran exclusively on hemp fuel. The hemp car drove more than 10,000 miles from Toronto to Washington, D.C. in order to demonstrate the practical use of hemp fuel. In addition, 100 years before that, Rudolph Diesel displayed his engine that ran on peanut oil at the World Exhibition in Paris. It was only later that he developed engines to run on gasoline because it was more cost-effective back then.
The gasoline and diesel engines of today are already using some percentages of additives derived from plants like ethanol to make a car’s engine burn fuel more efficiently and to reduce pollution. That means that our engines are already somehow plant-fuel-tolerant, and with the right upgrades and todays’ technologies the carmakers can easily adapt our vehicles to use plants for fuel.
Cars designed to run on petrol can only tolerate a 10% addition of ethanol to petrol. Instead, flexible fuel cars can use a mix of up to 80% ethanol. In Brazil, where vast amounts of sugar cane are grown for biofuel, some cars initially designed to run on gasoline can now run on 100% ethanol instead.
Moreover, diesel cars can already run only on biodiesel – one of the several existing alternative fuels – as the power and properties of this environmentally-friendly fuel are identical to petroleum diesel fuel.
Taking that into account we have another reason to consider hemp as the right plant for a clean energy source. Under refining, hemp can provide both types of biofuels: biodiesel (methanol) and ethanol. Biodiesel is made from plant oils and methanol, and hempseed is composed by 30-35% oil by weight, giving it a fuel yield of around 207 gallons per hectare. The other substance needed for biodiesel – methanol – is mainly made from corn and yields around 1,550 liters of methanol per acre. Hemp yields up to 10,000 liters. Because of its obvious effectiveness, the price of hemp fuel would cost about a dollar a gallon, compared to gasoline.
So, in the land of renewable energy sources, it’s easy to see why this particular plant can be so much more suitable for making biofuels compared to other crops. If grown responsibly, without unnecessary deforestation and pesticides, under the right laws and regulations, hemp can be the future of bioenergy altogether.
All in all, taking into consideration all of this plant’s potential and versatility, the low cost of hemp fuel, the long list of environmental bonuses, the low maintenance of the hemp crop, and not to forget the high effectiveness of it on so many levels, it’s safe to say that it will become the super-plant of the future, and I dare to add (and hope), the very near one!
Discussion question: What is your opinion on Hemp Fuel vs. Gasoline? 3 Reasons Hemp Fuel Can Power the Future!
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To the well-being of our future,
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