Hemp can help us move away from petroleum-based fuels

by DGO Web Administrator

Current times bring something Bob Marley said to my mind: “Herb is the healing of a nation.” Bob, being Bob, was discussing spiritual matters, but like so many things he said, this prescient statement has implications in all realms. We stand today in America on the razor’s edge. I believe that we must change if we want to leave a country and, indeed, a world in shape to honor our promise to the future. In cannabis, and at this specific moment, in hemp, we have the solution to some of the grave problems we face.

The love of money and the proliferation of a petroleum-based economy have spread like a sickness not only here in the good ol’ US of A but worldwide, manifesting in the symptoms of imbalance and waste, risking the future stability of our systems like a desperate alcoholic pouring more and more booze down his gullet because it’s all he knows, acting in that strange comfort of attachment in spite of the poisoning effect of his continued actions.

With petroleum, as it is currently being used, we threaten the future – earthquakes in Oklahoma caused by fracking; oil spills nationwide, most recently one, of as yet undetermined volume, in northwestern North Dakota just 200 miles from the Standing Rock site; threats to wildlife from both raw crude and from non-biodegradable petroleum-based plastic products (have you seen the picture of the peanut-shaped turtle that grew to fit the six-pack ring that trapped its shell?); our water tables, rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds need only be contaminated once to make them unusable for generations. The center of this way of living cannot hold.

To clarify – I understand that petroleum-based products are an important, and in many cases, vital part of living in our shared modern world, and I am not advocating for the wholesale extinction of all the uses of this natural resource. Expanding the uses of hemp provides an alternative way of production that resolves many of the imbalances caused by our current petroleum usage.

Hemp can be used to create an additional source of fuel energy to lessen the burden created by our overreliance on fossil fuels. By way of a process known as pyrolysis – the thermal decomposition of biomass materials by elevated temperatures in an environment lacking oxygen, we can produce three products: a liquid called bio-oil, a solid called bio-char, and a gas known as syngas. These are alternative fuel sources that do not require the removal of petrochemicals from the earth but, rather, have as their source industrial hemp.

Bio-oil has a fuel value that ranges between 50 and 70 percent of petrofuels; it can be used as boiler fuel or further refined to become transportation fuel. Bio-char has many applications, including agricultural uses, which assist soil in the retention of water, nutrients, and agricultural chemicals as it prevents water contamination and soil erosion. Syngas can be used in heat production and to generate mechanical and electrical power.

These products create only 60 to 90 percent of the emissions output of petroleum-based chemicals.

Hemp is a durable, drought-and-pest-resistant crop that does not need chemical fertilizers and restores soil as it grows. It would be wise of us to pause before we reach a tipping point that will forever alter the trajectory of human life on this planet and take a moment to recognize the amazing versatility of a plant that offers us not only a break from the stresses of everyday life but also food, medicine, and a potential path away from the destruction being wrought at the hands of our reliance upon a petroleum-based economy.

Hate to be a bummer, DGO, but this is a piece of the puzzle we can’t ignore.

Christopher Gallagher lives with his wife and their four dogs and two horses. Life is pretty darn good. Email him at [email protected].


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