30 min

Hempoline bio-fuel

(My ToledoTalk.com post from 2007)

Info related to hemp and other products used for bio-fuels. Some of the information is from a July 11, 2006 Toledo Talk thread titled More ethanol plants by The Andersons.

Hemp summary points

  • Today, more than 30 industrialized nations grow industrial hemp and export to the US.
  • Hemp is the only crop that is both illegal to grow in the U.S. and legal for Americans to import.
  • Hemp is the number one biomass producer on planet earth.
  • It would only take 6% of our U.S. land to produce enough hemp, for hemp fuel, to make us energy independent from the rest of the world. (I agree, a hard-to-believe stat.)
  • The hemp car was an alternative-fuel project car that utilized hemp biodiesel for fuel.
  • To date, twenty-eight states have introduced hemp legislation and fifteen have passed legislation; seven (Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Montana, North Dakota and West Virginia) have removed barriers to its production or research.
  • HR 3037 - Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2005 introduced by Ron Paul.
  • HR 1009 - Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2007 introduced in February 2007 by Ron Paul (R-TX) and co-sponsored by Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Barney Frank (D-MA), Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Jim McDermott (D-WA), George Miller (D-CA), Pete Stark (D-CA), and Lynn Woolsey (D-CA). (Where's Marcy Kaptur on legalizing hemp production?)
  • In May 2007, California's Assembly voted in favor of the California Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2007. The legislation gives farmers the right to grow non-psychoactive Industrial Hemp which is commonly made into everything from food, clothing, paper, body care, bio-fuel and even auto parts.
  • Industrial hemp is used in dozens of products.
  • In the automotive industry, industrial hemp is used in the natural fiber composites that have rapidly replaced fiberglass as the material of choice for vehicle interiors.
  • Hemp grown for biomass makes very poor grade marijuana.
  • The THC levels in Industrial Hemp are so low that no one could get high from smoking it.
  • In countries where hemp is grown as an agricultural crop, the police are not burdened by additional enforcement.

Bio-fuels not the answer

Apparently, bio-fuels are not the answer when the discussion concerns corn and soybeans. What about the sugar cane that Brazil uses for bio-fuel? And I guess hemp never gets mentioned because it's illegal to produce it in the U.S.

Excerpts from a Toledo Blade guest column by Julia Olmstead, a graduate student in plant breeding and sustainable agriculture at Iowa State University and a graduate fellow with the Land Institute, Salina, Kan.

The United States annually consumes more fossil and nuclear energy than all the energy produced in a year by the country's plant life, including forests and that used for food and fiber, according to figures from the U.S. Department of Energy and David Pimentel, a Cornell University researcher.

To produce enough corn-based ethanol to meet current U.S. demand for automotive gasoline, we would need to nearly double the amount of land used for harvested crops, plant all of it in corn, year after year, and not eat any of it.

Even a greener fuel source like the switchgrass President Bush mentioned, which requires fewer petroleum-based inputs than corn and reduces topsoil losses by growing back each year, could provide only a small fraction of the energy we demand.

The corn and soybeans that make ethanol and bio-diesel take huge quantities of fossil fuel for farm machinery, pesticides, and fertilizer. Much of it comes from foreign sources, including some that may not be dependable, such as Russia and countries in the Middle East.

Corn and soybean production as practiced in the Midwest is ecologically unsustainable. Its effects include massive topsoil erosion, pollution of surface and groundwater with pesticides, and fertilizer runoff that travels down the Mississippi River to deplete oxygen and life from a New Jersey-size portion of the Gulf of Mexico.

Improving fuel efficiency in cars by just one mile per gallon - a gain possible with proper tire inflation - would cut fuel consumption equal to the total amount of ethanol federally mandated for production in 2012.

Let's be bold. Let's raise the tax on gasoline to encourage consumers to buy fuel-efficient cars and trucks. We can use the proceeds to fund research and subsidies for truly sustainable energy. Let's raise energy efficiency standards for vehicles, appliances, industries, and new buildings.

Let's switch the billions we now spend on ethanol subsidies to development of truly sustainable energy technologies.

And why not spend money to make on-the-shelf technology like hybrid cars more affordable? Fuel-efficient hybrids aren't the final solution, but they can be a bridge to more sustainable solutions.

What about hemp?

The Blade guest columnist did not mention hemp as a possible alternative for producing bio-fuels. She only mentioned products like corn and soybeans. Typical.

From Hemp4Fuel.com :

Cornell University study says no to biofuels - ignores hemp.

In July 2005, Cornell University published a study saying that it is not economical to produce ethanol or biodiesel from corn and other crops. The study confirmed what other studies have shown in the past. The vegetable sources that are currently (legally) available are insuficient. Hemp is the only proven source for economical biomass fuels, a biomass source which was completely ignored by the Cornell study.

HEMP IS THE NUMBER ONE biomass producer on planet earth: 10 tons per acre in approximately four months. It is a woody plant containing 77% cellulose. Wood produces 60% cellulose. This energy crop can be harvested with equipment readily available. It can be "cubed" by modifying hay cubing equipment. This method condenses the bulk, reducing trucking costs from the field to the pyrolysis reactor. And the biomass cubes are ready for conversion with no further treatment.

Hemp is drought resistant, making it an ideal crop in the dry western regions of the country. Hemp is the only biomass resource capable of making America energy independent. And our government outlawed it in 1938.

During World War II, our supply of hemp was cut off by the Japanese. The federal government responded to the emergency by suspending marijuana prohibition. Patriotic American farmers were encouraged to apply for a license to cultivate hemp and responded enthusiastically. Hundreds of thousands of acres of hemp were grown.

The argument against hemp production does not hold up to scrutiny: hemp grown for biomass makes very poor grade marijuana. The 20 to 40 million Americans who smoke marijuana would loath to smoke hemp grown for biomass, so a farmer's hemp biomass crop is worthless as marijuana.

The Blade guest columnist said about the allegedly inefficent corn and soybean-based bio-fuels:

To produce enough corn-based ethanol to meet current U.S. demand for automotive gasoline, we would need to nearly double the amount of land used for harvested crops, plant all of it in corn, year after year, and not eat any of it.


From another website, supposedly:

It would only take 6% of our U.S. land to produce enough hemp, for hemp fuel, to make us energy independent from the rest of the world.

Sounds a little hard to believe, but who knows? Neither the article about the Cornell research nor the Blade guest columnist mentioned hemp as an alternative for sustainable energy.

Hemp Car

From Hempcar.org :

Hemp car was an alternative-fuel project car that utilized hemp biodiesel for fuel. Industrial hemp would be an economical fuel if hemp were legal to cultivate in the United States.

The car toured America, with stops in Canada, frequenting alternative-energy, environmental, and hemp-legalization events. The car departed from Washington D.C. on July 4, 2001 and returned home on October 2, 2001. We provided the public with information about biofuels, hemp, their uses, and current American laws. We established a world distance record for a vehicle utilizing hemp for fuel: 10,000 miles.

Pro-hemp Legislation

June 12, 2006 news story from VoteHemp.com :

North Dakota and California are in a race to be the first state in the U.S. to commercially grow industrial hemp since Wisconsin grew the last hemp crop nearly 50 years ago. [E]ach state will conduct important public hearings on the subject.

The hearings are taking place in the shadow of Canadian hemp farming which has seen steady growth over the last six years. This year, Canada is expected to grow a record 40,000 acres of industrial hemp. Nevertheless, rumors persist that the demand for hemp seed from U.S. food producers — whose sales are growing 50% each year — will create shortages before harvest again this summer, forcing buyers to go to Europe or China for seed.

[I]n the automotive industry, industrial hemp is used in the natural fiber composites that have rapidly replaced fiberglass as the material of choice for vehicle interiors. FlexForm, an Indiana manufacturer whose hemp-content materials are found in an estimated 2.5 million vehicles in North America today, uses approximately 250,000 pounds of hemp fiber per year.

Currently seven states (Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Montana, North Dakota and West Virginia) have changed their laws to give farmers an affirmative right to grow industrial hemp commercially or for research purposes.

Report card

From the Vote Hemp report card about the 2004 presidential candidates:

President George Bush received an "F" for overseeing the DEA's needless assault on industrial hemp over the past few years.

From the Vote Hemp state action guide, Ohio, not surprisingly, is not listed. Ohio, a bit of an agriculture state, is actionless.

To date, twenty-eight states have introduced hemp legislation and fifteen have passed legislation; seven (Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Montana, North Dakota and West Virginia) have removed barriers to its production or research.

State legislators, for more information about passing a resolution in support of industrial hemp please see our Hemp Resolution page.

HR 3037 - 2005 Act

June 2005 news story about the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2005.

HR 3037 would give states the right to regulate farming of versatile hemp plant. Ralph Nader called the US ban on hemp farming, "bureaucratic medievalism" because over 30 industrialized countries are growing hemp and the U.S. is the number one importer of the crop. Twenty-six states have introduced hemp legislation. Industrial hemp is used in a tremendous variety of products, including food products, soap, cosmetics, fertilizer, textiles, paper, paints and plastics.

About HR 3037:

To amend the Controlled Substances Act to exclude industrial hemp from the definition of marihuana, and for other purposes.

Status of HR 3037:

Introduced (By Rep. Ronald Paul [R-TX])
This bill is in the first step in the legislative process. Introduced House bills go first to House committees that consider whether the bill should be presented to the House as a whole. The majority of bills never make it out of committee.

HR 1009 - 2007 Act

In 2005, we reached a major milestone ... for the first time since the federal government outlawed hemp farming in the United States, a federal bill was introduced that would remove restrictions on the cultivation of non-psychoactive industrial hemp. At a Capitol Hill lunch on June 23, 2005 marking the introduction of H.R. 3037, the "Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2005," Congressional staffers were treated to a delicious gourmet hemp lunch while listening to various prominent speakers tout the myriad benefits of encouraging and supporting a domestic hemp industry.

The bill was written with the help of Vote Hemp by chief sponsor Rep. Ron Paul, and it garnered 11 additional co-sponsors. The bill defined industrial hemp and assigned authority over it to the states, allowing laws in those states regulating the growing and processing of industrial hemp to take effect.

Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2007

On February 13, 2007 Rep. Ron Paul introduced H.R. 1009 [PDF file], the "Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2007," with nine original co-sponsors: Representatives Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Barney Frank (D-MA), Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Jim McDermott (D-WA), George Miller (D-CA), Pete Stark (D-CA), and Lynn Woolsey (D-CA).

California 2007

May 10, 2007 news :

California's Assembly today voted 41 to 29, with 9 not voting, to approve AB 684, the California Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2007. The legislation gives farmers the right to grow non-psychoactive Industrial Hemp which is commonly made into everything from food, clothing, paper, body care, bio-fuel and even auto parts. The bill now goes to the Senate where it is expected to have enough support to pass. The text of legislation can be found at: http://www.votehemp.com/state/california.html#Legislation

Last year, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed AB 1147 which is nearly identical to AB 864. At that time the Governor claimed that bill would put farmers in jeopardy of federal prosecution if they grew hemp despite assurances by Vote Hemp and other supporting organizations such as the California based Hemp Industries Association and California Certified Organic Farmers there would be a challenge to the Drug Enforcement Administration's legal authority to interfere with the state hemp farming law prior to implementation.

"Passage of the hemp farming bill in the Assembly is a sign it is likely to reach Governor Schwarzenegger's desk for the second year in row," says Vote Hemp legal Council and San Francisco Attorney Patrick Goggin. "The mood in Sacramento is this bill is consistent with California's effort to be leader on US environmental policy. Hemp is a versatile plant that can replace polluting crops such as cotton and is taking off as an organic food and body care ingredient. It is time to jump into the expanding market for hemp that California companies currently import from Canada and elsewhere."

Today more than 30 industrialized nations grow industrial hemp and export to the US. It is the only crop that is both illegal to grow and legal for Americans to import. Sales of hemp food and body care products have grown rapidly in recent years fueling an expansion of hemp farming in Canada which topped 48,000 acres in 2006.

A telephone poll with a 3.5% margin of error of likely California voters taken from February 22 - 26 showed a total of 71% support changing state law to allow farmers to grow hemp. The survey was conducted by the respected research firm Zogby International on behalf of Vote Hemp and five manufacturers of hemp food products including Alpsnack(R), French Meadow Bakery(R), Living Harvest(R), Nature's Path Organic Foods(R) and Nutiva(R).

Poll questions and results regarding industrial hemp farming policy and consumer attitudes on hemp products and nutrition can be viewed online at: http://www.votehemp.com/polls.html

There is evidence of strong support among men and women and self- identified liberal and conservative voters on the issue. Among California Republicans, 60% support changing state law on hemp while 74% of Democrats are in support. Support was also steady among all age groups, ranging from 54% of 18 to 29 year olds to 82% of 30 to 49 year olds, 74% of 50 to 64 years olds and 60% of those over 65 years old.

Hemp-based products

From the Hemp Industries Association website, a list of products manufactured from hemp.

Hemp is Business: A Wealth of Products & Supreme Versatility

back packs, bags, beanies, belts, briefcases, caps, checkbook covers, gloves, guitar straps, hair ties, hats (knit, crocheted & fabric), hip packs, jewelry, luggage, purses, scarves, shawls, shoe laces, shoes, socks, ties, travel kits, wallets, watchbands

Animal Care
beds, bedding, feed, leashes & collars, treats

baby clothes, bathrobes, dresses, jackets, jeans, lingerie, overalls, pants, shirts, shorts, skirts, suits, sweaters, tees

Body Care
hair conditioners, lip balms, lipsticks, lotions, massage oils, nutritional oils, salves, shampoos, soaps, tanning lotions

beer, breads, brownies, burgers, chips, chocolate bars, coffees, cookies, defatted hempseed meal, shelled hempseeds, dry mixes - cake, cookie, pancake & pizza dough, energy bars, flour, hummus, ice cream (non-dairy desserts), nut bars, nut-butter, oil, pasta, pastilles, pretzels, protein powders, roasted seeds, salad dressings, soda drinks, spiced hemp seeds

aprons, blankets, curtains, couch covers, furniture, hammocks, potholders, pillows, placemats, napkins, tablecloths, towels

art papers, bond, bookmarks, books, cigarette papers, corrugated board, envelopes, invitations, journals, magazines, postcards, posters, stationery, writing pads, books, magazines, newsletters, research papers

Raw Hemp
bast fiber, batting (tow), long fiber (line or sliver) for industry & craft use, hurds (core), seed stock, seed grain

Sports Equipment
frisbees, hackie sacks, skateboards, snowboards, surfboards

Spun Hemp
twine, rope, yarn, webbing, thread

hand-woven & mill-loomed fabrics: blended silks to canvas, various weights & textures, colors, patterns, stripes & plaids; knits; finishing services; non-woven matting (replacing fiberglass); carpets & rugs

dolls, candles, coffee filters, drums, picture frames, teddy bears, toys

Purchase hemp-based food items at http://hempusa.org/

Hemp News

July 10, 2006 Louisville Courier-Journal story about Kentucky's 2007 gubernatorial race:

Lexington lawyer Galbraith hasn't filed the official paperwork yet, but he says he's running for governor again next year. Galbraith, 59, said he'll run as a Democrat this time. In the past, he has run as a reform party candidate and an independent, and has unsuccessfully sought the offices of governor, attorney general and agriculture commissioner, and a seat in Congress.

Top issues include getting Kentucky into the bio-fuel business, providing college incentives, protecting the environment, introducing hemp as a cash crop, and decriminalizing marijuana use for personal and medicinal purposes, Galbraith said.

July 9, 2006 Flint Journal story about a state political race:

[Democrat hopeful Andy] Everman wants to see Michigan work with other Midwest states to lower the cost of prescription drugs and attract more businesses. He also wants to see a training center in Clio for volunteer firefighters, and to have the state explore the use of sterile hemp to create diesel fuel.

July 5, 2006 Greensboro News-Record story

When it comes to hemp, Stan Bingham is a true believer. "Each day I learn more about it, I get more excited about it," the Denton Republican and state senator says of marijuana's close cousin, which he touts as, among other things, an alternative fuel source (and a way to "kick OPEC in the ass.")

Law enforcement types aren't thrilled because although hemp doesn't get you high, it's difficult to distinguish visually from the stuff that made Cheech and Chong famous.

Still, that isn't stopping Bingham, who has a bill in the legislature to study hemp's industrial uses. Just get him going, and he starts rattling off all the potential uses for the plant, which was cultivated by Founding Fathers such as Thomas Jefferson and grown during World War II when textiles were scarce.

There's auto parts, food (it's rich in Omega 3 fat, the good kind, Bingham says), building materials, a concrete reinforcement and as an alternative fuel. That's how Bingham got involved in the first place. Alternative fuels have long been an interest. "I'm running my car on soybean oil now," he said.

The conditions here are conducive to growing hemp -- as the area's marijuana busts also suggest -- and Bingham believes hemp would be potentially lucrative for area farmers. There is a market for hemp, although it might not exactly be leafy gold. Randall Fortenbery, a professor in agricultural and applied economics at the University of Wisconsin, said hemp might not be a bonanza like tobacco once was, but that it could be solidly profitable.

June 28 2006 story

Assembly Bill 1147 authored by Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and Assemblyman Chuck DeVore (R-Irvine), permitting California farmers to grow industrial hemp for the sale of seed, oil and fiber to manufacturers passed the Senate Public Safety Committee today on a vote of 4 to 2. This measure will allow California to lead the way in tapping into a $270 million industry that's growing by $26 million each year.

Sponsored by Vote Hemp, AB 1147 would permit California farmers to grow industrial hemp, a variety of cannabis that grows up to 16 feet tall, resembles bamboo, and has no psychoactive properties. Under the bill, industrial hemp is defined as cannabis having 0.3% THC or less and its cultivation is only permitted as an agricultural field crop or in a research setting. Cultivation in groves, yards, or other locations is prohibited.

Hemp is one of the strongest natural fibers known and is grown and processed throughout the world for paper, fuel, clothing, building materials, canvas, rope, beauty care products, food and automobile parts, among others. The seed has many nutritional benefits because it contains essential amino acids, including omega-3 commonly found in fish, and is an alternative source of protein. Hemp also has strong environmental benefits. It's a source for paper that could enable us to save our trees for higher end uses such as lumber. Hemp can be used as a raw material for ethanol fuel with no net addition to greenhouse gases. It requires little or no agricultural chemicals, smothers weeds, and improves soil conditions, making it an excellent rotational crop.

Hemp Myths and Facts

From the Myths and Facts page at Vote Hemp.

Surely no member of the vegetable kingdom has ever been more misunderstood than hemp. For too many years, emotion-not reason-has guided our policy toward this crop. And nowhere have emotions run hotter than in the debate over the distinction between industrial hemp and marijuana.

Botanically, the genus Cannabis is composed of several variants. Although there has been a long-standing debate among taxonomists about how to classify these variants into species, applied plant breeders generally embrace a biochemical method to classify variants along utilitarian lines.

Cannabis is the only plant genus that contains the unique class of molecular compounds called cannabinoids. Many cannabinoids have been identified, but two preponderate: THC, which is the psychoactive ingredient of Cannabis, and CBD, which is an anti-psychoactive ingredient.

One type of Cannabis is high in the psychoactive cannabinoid, THC, and low in the anti-psychoactive cannabinoid, CBD. This type is popularly known as marijuana. Another type is high in CBD and low in THC. Variants of this type are called Industrial Hemp.

In the United States, the debate about the relationship between hemp and marijuana has been diminished by the dissemination of many statements that have little scientific support. This report examines in detail ten of the most pervasive and pernicious of these myths.

Myth: Smoking Industrial Hemp gets a person high.

Reality: The THC levels in Industrial Hemp are so low that no one could get high from smoking it. Moreover, hemp contains a relatively high percentage of another cannabinoid, CBD, that actually blocks the marijuana high. Hemp, it turns out, is not only not marijuana; it could be called "anti-marijuana".

Myth: Industrial Hemp fields would be used to hide marijuana plants.

Reality: Industrial Hemp is grown quite differently from marijuana. Moreover, it is harvested at a different time than marijuana. Finally, cross-pollination between hemp plants and marijuana plants would significantly reduce the potency of the marijuana plant.

Myth: Legalizing hemp while continuing the prohibition on marijuana would burden local police forces.

Reality: In countries where hemp is grown as an agricultural crop, the police have experienced no such burdens.

Myth: Hemp oil is a source of THC.

Reality: Hemp oil is an increasingly popular product, used for an expanding variety of purposes. The washed Industrial Hemp seed contains no THC at all. The tiny amounts of THC contained in Industrial Hemp are in the glands of the plant itself. Sometimes, in the manufacturing process, some THC- and CBD-containing resin sticks to the seed, resulting in traces of THC in the oil that is produced. The concentration of these cannabinoids in the oil is infinitesimal. No one can get high from using Industrial Hemp oil.

Myth: Legalizing Industrial Hemp would send the wrong message to children.

Reality: It is the current refusal of the DEA and ONDCP to distinguish between an agricultural crop and a drug crop that is sending the wrong message to children.

Pie-in-the-sky thoughts

Hemp research

  • Our northwest Ohio House Reps Marcy Kaptur (D-9th district) and Paul Gillmor (R-5th district) help fund a three to five year hemp bio-fuel research project that would involve Bowling Green State University, the University of Toledo, and The Andersons.
  • The universities with their own farm land would grow corn, soybeans, and hemp.
  • The Andersons could provide the means to convert each crop into bio-fuel.
  • Maybe Jeep could provide the vehicles used to test each bio-fuel product.

For each bio-fuel product, the following would be monitored:

  • Fuel, water, fertilizer, and other resources needed to grow each crop.
  • Amount of nutrients each crop removes from the soil.
  • Amount of bio-fuel produced per acre.
  • Fuel efficiency of each bio-fuel product (miles per gallon).

The research should be able to prove whether or not hemp is dramatically better than corn and soybeans for bio-fuel production.

Who would be opposed to this research or opposed to legalizing hemp production in the U.S.? With my conspiracy hat on, maybe the following in some way would be opposed to using hemp to gain energy independence:

  • Politicians.
  • Private business (The Andersons?).
  • Agriculture industry or farm orgs that promote corn and soybeans.
  • Chemical companies that support corn and soybeans.
  • Automotive industry.
  • Oil industry.

I believe that many politicians, the automotive industry, the oil industry, and the ag business know that bio-fuel from corn and soybeans will have little impact on improving the U.S.'s energy independence and little impact on reducing the cost of fuel for vehicles, but they support the corn and soybean bio-fuel endeavor because it gives the appearance of doing something, and some orgs are able to make money from corn and soybean bio-fuels.

A misinformed public is constantly fed the propaganda that corn and soybean bio-fuels are the answer to our vehicle fuel problems. The willing public will accept and believe anything.


Excerpts from the Wikipedia article for switchgrass:

Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) is a warm season grass and is one of the dominant species of the central North American tallgrass prairie. Switchgrass can be found in remnant prairies, along roadsides, pastures and as an ornamental plant in gardens.

Switchgrass is a hardy, perennial bunch grass which begins growth in late spring. It can grow up to 1.8-2.2 m in height but is typically shorter than Big Bluestem grass or Indiangrass.


Switchgrass is often considered a good candidate for biofuel — especially ethanol fuel — production due to its hardiness against poor soil and climate conditions, rapid growth and low fertilization and herbicide requirements. Switchgrass is also perennial, unlike corn and sugarcane, and has a huge biomass output, the raw plant material used to make biofuel, of 6-10 tons per acre. President George W. Bush mentioned this usage in his 2006 State of the Union address.

Switchgrass has the potential to produce the biomass required for production of up to 100 gallons (380 liters) of ethanol per metric ton. This gives switchgrass the potential to produce 1000 gallons of ethanol per acre, compared to 665 gallons for sugarcane and 400 gallons for corn.

However, there is debate on the viability of switchgrass, and all other biofuels, as an efficient energy source. University of California, Berkeley professor Tad Patzek points out that switchgrass has a negative ethanol fuel energy balance, requiring 45 percent more fossil energy than the fuel produced.

On the other side, David Bransby, professor of energy crops at Auburn University, has found that for every unit of energy input, switchgrass yields four units out

In January 2007, Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen announced that his proposed 2007-08 State budget would include $61 million for a comprehensive alternative fuels strategy designed "to position Tennessee to be a national leader in the production of biomass ethanol and related research." Bredesen proposed this funding in combination with $11.6 million in existing funding for an ongoing related project at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), for a total proposal representing a $72.6 million comprehensive plan. Scientists at ORNL and the University of Tennessee (UT) Institute for Agriculture have developed ethanol from switchgrass, which can be grown virtually anywhere in Tennessee.

OSU Research

Excerpts from a Jun 2, 2007 North Texas e-News news story:

With double the biomass output compared to corn and low management inputs, switchgrass is shaping up to be a viable alternative crop for biofuels production. But is it an option for Ohio farmers?

Based on what Ohio State University soil scientists have seen in three years of switchgrass research, production is feasible. But it will be at least another year before the crop is harvested and data generated to evaluate the crop’s production and economic efficiencies.

“We have been able to grow very good stands of switchgrass at three Ohio sites: Jackson and Western agricultural research stations, and the OARDC Hoytville branch,” said Rattan Lal, an internationally known School of Environment and Natural Resources soil scientist and director of the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) Carbon Management and Sequestration Center. “The goal is to see how much biomass switchgrass grown in Ohio can produce and what impact the crop has on soil properties and soil carbon sequestration.”

Switchgrass is a native, warm-season summer perennial that is often considered a good candidate for ethanol production. It can produce up to 8 to 10 tons per acre of biomass, potentially producing 1,000 gallons of ethanol per acre, compared to 400 gallons for corn. Switchgrass has lower management inputs compared to corn because of its resistance to a wide variety of insects and diseases. The grass is also tolerant of poor soils, flooding and drought.

In addition, the roots of switchgrass are efficient carbon storehouses, maintaining soil quality even after the plant has been harvested. This characteristic is attractive to Lal, who is encouraging farmers to use other alternatives than corn residue for ethanol production.

Lal hopes that the results of the switchgrass research will open new opportunities for Ohio farmers interested in growing crops for ethanol production. But there are some production challenges.

“Switchgrass is difficult to establish,” said Lal. “Our initial establishment was not easy and we even had to do some re-planting and transferring from greenhouses. At the onset, the plant does require some babysitting.”

Lal attributes the slow establishment to the plant’s small seed, which also gives presents problems with weed competition.

“Once switchgrass is established, however, it’s a remarkable species, growing quite successfully, especially in no-till systems,” said Lal. “It also grows well on sloping land and other land areas that may not be suited for field crop production.”

Switchgrass reaches full yield only in the third year after planting. When managed for energy production it can be cut once or twice a year with regular hay or silage equipment.

Lal is also participating in a multi-state research effort to evaluate the impacts of switchgrass on soil properties. Called Carbon Sequestration in Terrestrial Ecosystems (CSiTE), the project is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. Ohio is part of the project.

Economist hemp story

Excerpts from a Jun 21, 2007 story On a high - Is weed the new green?

“PLANS are afoot for a great expansion of the hemp industry.” So proclaimed the Department of Agriculture in its rousing 1942 movie, “Hemp for Victory”, which urged farmers to rally to the cause: “Hemp for mooring ships! Hemp for tow lines! Hemp for tackle and gear!” The plant's long, strong fibres twist easily into rope, which made it useful for parachute webbing. The war effort was imperilled when Japan's seizure of the Philippines curtailed America's supply.

But despite the enthusiasm of wartime planners, hemp never took root (as it were). Taxes and regulations, introduced in 1937 but minimally enforced during the war, kicked in again during the 1950s. Hemp is a variety of the cannabis plant, which also produces marijuana—though industrial hemp has a much smaller concentration of the mind-blowing compound, THC, than the smokable stuff. America's puritans, not to mention nylon-makers, wanted production shut down.

Nowadays farmers are banned from growing hemp without a permit from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which usually refuses to grant one. So many hemp products in America—food, lotions, clothing, paper and so forth—are imported from China or Canada, where farmers have been allowed to grow hemp commercially since 1998.

Hemp grows so easily that few pesticides or even fertilisers are needed. “Feral” hemp is said to grow by the roadside in Iowa and Nebraska. Barbara Filippone, owner of a hemp fabric company called Enviro Textiles, says demand has rocketed—sales are growing by 35% a year. Nutiva, a California-based hemp company that sells hemp bars, shakes and oils, saw sales rise from under $1m three years ago to $4.5m last year. “Hemp is the next soy,” predicts John Roulac, Nutiva's founder.

American farmers would love to grow hemp. North Dakota, which in 1999 became the first state to allow industrial hemp farming, has taken the lead. This week two farmers from the state filed a lawsuit to force the DEA to issue permits to grow hemp.

If hemp grows so easily, what about using the crop as a biofuel? A Mercedes-Benz “hemp car” did make its way across America six years ago. (Among other uses in cars, “Pimp My Ride”, an MTV show, recently featured a 1965 Chevy Impala that runs on biodiesel and has hemp upholstery.)

#environment - #energy - #biofuel - #activism - #auto - #farming - #politics - #blog_jr

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