Hemp Can Open Uncharted Possibilities in Biofuel Production
The most conflicting problem that halts the full development of biofuel production plantations is the dilemma of whether to use a crop as food or as fuel. But even if we do find other biofuel sources, there is still the remaining problem of whether to use the available arable land for biofuel crops or for regular food crops.
That would mean we have to search for an alternative that would not only take the place of standard food-crop biofuel, but would also not disturb the available arable land designated for food production. This is where the biofuel wonders of hemp comes in, and I’ll explain briefly how this supposedly “evil weed” could someday propel the biofuel industry forward faster.
The “Wild” Non-Crop Biofuel
Before we discuss its biofuel properties, let us analyze first what hemp really is. Hemp is the plant fiber of the Cannabis sativa plant. It has many important uses, from its food applications, medical properties, to its industrial potential as clothing and building material. However, when the Cannabis sativa plant gets fully grown, it becomes the “evil weed”, especially with its blooming flowers, holding certain psychoactive compounds that allow it to be manufactured as marijuana.
Naturally, since this plant also contains various oils and lipids in its system, it is technically viable as a biofuel resource. It has a conversion efficiency of 97%, a rate that is considered more than satisfactory for a potentially viable and sustainable biofuel source. Hemp-based biofuels were also tested to be capable of being used at lower temperatures compared to other conventional biodiesels. In fact, when compared to other regular sources of biofuel, Hemp-based biofuel can actually have the better economic advantage, since there are many factors that could enable its production to be significantly better, faster and more efficient than crop-based biofuels. Some of these factors are:
- It can thrive on less arable, less nutrient-filled soil. Unlike regular crops that are used to make biofuel, hemp does not need optimal living conditions; even with nutrient-competing neighbors such as wild weeds, it still can stand fine and grow well on its own. This makes it a strong and sturdy plant, ensuring the sustainability of hemp biofuel production.
- As it can live on less arable soil, it consequently does not need to occupy arable land. As a follow up to the first advantage, hemp can then be grown without the need to sacrifice land that would have otherwise been used for other more important crops.
- It can grow like a wild weed. This isn’t really a notable advantage from an agricultural standpoint, but knowing that it can grow anywhere gives us an idea that hemp biodiesel could practically come from anywhere.
The most important ingredient of the hemp biodiesel is its seed, where most of the natural oils are encased. Unfortunately, it is considered as a super food, with even a few claims that it is one of the most nutritionally complete foods available. This could be a conflicting issue with the current image of hemp biofuels as the “best non-crop biofuels”, although of course this could simply be compensated by mainly using the stalks for fuel production instead.
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