Hemp has been a friend of humanity for thousands of years. New science suggests that now, hemp may be able to save our planet and allow us to continue our friendship with this powerful plant for thousands of more years.
Brief review on the science of climate change.
The factors leading to climate change are still a hot topic of debate amongst policy makers, despite the long-standing evidence supporting greenhouse gases as the main contributor of erosion of the ozone layer and the entrapment of heat in our atmosphere.
The science of climate change is fairly simple: greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and fluorinated gases) commonly produced as byproducts of the combustion of fossil fuels for energy, have been released into the atmosphere in large amounts, over a long period of time.
As these gases are released, they react with parts of the ozone layer, slowly diminishing its ability to protect us from UV (ultraviolet) rays from the sun. Additionally, these gases are able to efficiently absorb and reflect light back to the earth’s surface; particularly, light in the IR (infrared) spectrum. This, in turn, causes an increase in both surface and atmospheric temperatures.
Like everything else in the universe, temperature in our planet is carefully stabilized by a wide range of mechanisms. When this environmental homeostasis is disrupted, it can lead to severe consequences including but not limited to: an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather; loss of crops whose growth may be heavily affected by slight temperature changes; and changes in geographical disease patterns based on temperature increases in previously colder areas.
In fact, the rise in temperatures throughout North America is thought to be implicated in the rise of mosquito-borne diseases within the region, diseases including Zika and Chikungunya. This is mainly because hotter temperatures have allowed mosquitoes to breed and reproduce in areas where they were not able to before.
Hemp fuel facts:
So, what does Hemp have to do with climate change? Well, a whole lot.
As previously mentioned, the cause of climate change is mainly (if not solely) attributed to the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Therefore, the common-sense approach to solving this global issue is to develop other forms of cleaner energy (such as biofuel) to reduce the output of greenhouse gases due to the combustion of the already existing fossil fuels.
Research into potential of hemp-derived CBD Infused products as a clinical crop suggests it is currently competitive compared to others, however it is still at its infancy state if compared to other sources of biomass.
Scientists have toyed with various ideas, including the production of bioethanol and biodiesel from sugar beet, palm oil, and corn. However, these techniques have not proven to be nearly as efficient or environmentally friendly first expected.
For this reason, scientists are now more than ever advocating for the use of industrial hemp to produce cleaner and more efficient biofuels. This is mainly due to the fact that hemp crops are able to successfully produce bioethanol and biodiesel in a more environmentally friendly manner. Moreover, these crops can grow in almost any temperate-to-hot climate, making it accessible to more areas around the world.
Hemp can provide biodiesel, a variety of ester based oxygenated biofuels, through the pressing of hemp seeds which release hemp seed oil. On the other hand, hemp can produce ethanol or methanol through the process of fermentation. In this process, hemp stalks are left to ferment to produce the alcohol byproduct.
Because hemp biodiesel can be domestically produced, it could prove to be one of the easiest solutions for the problem of creating clean and renewable energy. In fact, according to many sources, there are approximately 30 million U.S road miles which could provide ample space for the cultivation of hemp crops for the sole purpose of hemp biodiesel production.
Pros of hemp biofuel.
The first major benefit of using hemp crops to produce hemp derived biofuel is: hemp does not need land to be cleared for its growth, as the crop grows faster than most other crops and leaves the soil in a better state than when it was first harvested; a phenomenon known as phytoremediation.
Also, the plant has the ability to grow in relatively infertile soils, which means it does not need to be grown on primary croplands, leaving those prime fields for growing food or other agricultural products.
Its conversion efficiency is also very impressive. Conversion efficiency is simply the rate at which the hemp plant is converted into the desired biodiesel product. The higher this conversion rate, the lower the concentration of unwanted byproducts that are released into the environment.
In the case of industrial hemp, many studies have suggested that 97% of the raw material (hemp) is successfully converted into biodiesel. This also suggests that more biodiesel is produced per hemp unit as compared to other biofuel crops, making it more economically viable. Other studies also point out that hemp derived biodiesel can be used at lower temperatures than any other biodiesel currently available.
In regard to pollution, no study has yet demonstrated that the combustion of hemp derived biofuel, and the process of producing this type of biofuel, emits any significant pollution into the environment.
Finally, the growth cycle for hemp is short, allowing for mass production in short periods of time. The plant is also extremely resilient to environmental problems, including increases in temperature, reduction in soil viability, or inaccessibility to water.
Not to exaggerate, but the plant can virtually grow anywhere.
Cons of hemp biofuel.
Everyone, this section is going to be a real short one, let me tell you.
The cons of hemp biofuel are not necessarily related to the production of the plant or its biofuel derivative. In fact, there truly is nothing negative about the use of hemp to produce biofuel for cleaner energy. It almost seems to be a no brainer.
Instead, the cons seem to revolve around the conservative perception on hemp and of the cannabis sativa plant.
Hemp is in fact not yet nationally legal. This puts a damp on its use for fuel purposes. The main reason for its illegality is that hemp is often associated with other strains of the cannabis sativa plant that contain high levels of the psychoactive cannabinoid, THC.
Hemp, by definition, contains Non-Detectable THC by dry weight and is often used in forms of CBD Hemp oil, cosmetics, etc. It’s not hemp if it has Non-Detectable THC! On the other hand, it does contain high levels of CBD, another major cannabinoid found in this particular family of the cannabis sativa plant. CBD has been, time and time again, proven to be non-psychoactive.
Actually, CBD has been studied for its many potential anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties. Therefore, industrial hemp should not be the victim of drug regulations, as it fails to provide the “high effect” attributed solely to THC. Fortunately for us, researchers are constantly pushing to create common sense policies that allow for the growth and processing of industrial hemp for its use as a clean energy source.
Could hemp biofuel be the true “green revolution”?