Per the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligations order, current bioethanol has to be blended into both diesel and petrol across the United Kingdom at a 4.75-percent rate. It was widely expected that an EU-wide target of 10 percent would be set by 2020. However, the goal was momentarily stalled given a report which demonstrated that a handful of poorly chosen sources of bioethanol actually generated more CO2 across their total lifespan when compared to petrol. Wheat has been identified as one particular crop which can generate quite a bit of CO2, even though this isn’t yet proven in the United Kingdom, as of the time of writing.
In actuality, we in the UK rely rather strongly on wheat as a bioethanol source. As a matter of fact, the biggest wheat buyer anywhere in the UK happens to be the Saltend biofuel plant that sits on the Humber estuary in North England. This facility takes in over a million tons of wheat each year, which it uses to produce over 400 million liters of bioethanol.
Ian Pearson who was the environment secretary before 2008 stated that hemp wasn’t competitive when compared to other various sources. Also a 2007 issue of Biodiesel Magazine reported that hemp’s small-scale production simply made it too expensive.
That particular statement would indicate that a rise in hemp production should lead to falling prices for hemp raw materials. This could potentially result in the hemp plant warranting more consideration as a bioethanol resource. Additionally as there is increasing demand for a variety of other hemp products such as oil, food, and construction materials, then they might start subsidizing plant parts used for bioethanol. This would in turn lower the price more, again helping improve bioethanol’s viability as a potential fuel source. Amy from Hkherbarium says, “hemp is transforming the globe’s farming focus from trees to hemp. Hemp’s ability to produce small amounts of fiber with low water intake is helping the globe save precious fresh water.
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Hemp oil is the result of pressing the hemp plant seed. Hemp seed oil is already a source of highly nutritious food oils and various medicinal products, but it can also be produced for fuel use. Food-grade hemp oil has to get converted into biodiesel. The process of turning hemp into CBD is done by Creating Better Days, a Florida company, among others.
Where Is The Opportunity Here?
Compared to regular petrol, biodiesel releases nearly 80 percent less carbon. Political movements and environmental awareness drove the growth of early bioethanol productions, and now they are promoting the awareness of biodiesel fuel. Hemp could see increased production in order to meet this particular demand. Additionally, modern diesel engines can handle as much as 20-percent biodiesel, which is double the bioethanol limit in place for petrol engines.
Are the food and biodiesel industries competing over hemp?
Certain nutritive components, such as lignan, found in hemp seed oil prove difficult to process, given the ‘liquid thickness’ or viscosity necessary for biodiesel. Also, hemp seed oil has an astounding array of various nutritional substances which are effective for people, which means the food industry is a direct competitor for the oil. This makes the oil price go up, usually too high for many consumers to find appealing in terms of fuel use. Having said that, the accumulated knowledge about the nutritive benefits of hemp oil aren’t really known right now. A lot more work needs to happen in regards to the actual financial viability of using hemp for biodiesel, as well as the potential it has to generate cleaner energy.
Are we heating our country with hemp now?
Thus far, we’ve only talked about fuel in terms of liquid fuels used in cars, plants, and other transportation engines. We’ve discovered so far that hemp can result in two kinds of liquid fuel. The first is bioethanol used in petrol engines, and the second is biodiesel used in diesel engines. On the other hand, these liquid fuels are only one component of total fuel consumption. Other fuels, such as gas and coal, are used in high volumes to generate power and electricity for home use. Also, we burn gas in our homes to cook food and heat our homes up. This might just be the greatest opportunity for hemp to get used as a fuel source. How, though? In terms of generating power, there are fossil fuel methods using coal and gas, but there are also renewable options, like biomass power plants, solar, hydro, and wind farms.
Biomass power plants operate using the fermentation process. When vegetation ferments and produces methane, the methane is siphoned off and burned. This creates the heat useful in producing electricity. Depending on how complex they are, such systems might take all sorts of fermenting crops and agricultural waste
This issue isn’t new. Compared to cellulosic ethanol, the technology behind biomass plants is well-known, since it’s been around a while. This makes it far more affordable. As a matter of fact, the Victorians even applied biomass in a way. They actually rigged some London street lamps to the underground sewage pipes so that methane could rise up from the sewers and get burned above so lamps produced light.
Things have certainly come a long way since then. For instance, Germany alone has over 8,000 operational biomass plants. These facilities are constructed purely to intake plant matter at one end and then produce electricity and heat out of the other end.
Localizing the power plants offers even more advantages. Our national grid has tremendous inefficiency in terms of transmission, which is when energy is moved from its creative source to where it is needed for consumption. Anytime you send electricity along wires, you’re going to lose quite a bit of it. As such, the model of generating electricity at one point and then sending it to points of consumption is quite inefficient. Think of off-shore wind farms; they’re great for cutting down on CO2 output, and yet this electricity must be moved far inland where it’s needed. Biomass fermenters would nearly obliterate all these efficiencies, since they could be built up close to cities, towns, and villages that need them.
Right now, the best specific example is in Feldheim, Germany. A 500-kWh biomass plant was built and partially locally owned. It actually reduced the area’s unemployment rate! It cost €1,750,000 to put in place. Now operational, it provides 35 homes heat, after each home paid a one-time connection fee of €1,500. Compared to conventional fossil-fuel options, the heating costs in these home have averaged anywhere from 10- to 20-percent lower. That’s impressive!
As we’ve shown, there’s a strong case, albeit theoretical, to be made for hemp making our economy stronger thanks to energy security. Biodiesel, bioethanol, and biomass power plants absolutely have advantages, although biomass power plants and bioethanol liquid fuel tend to show the most promise.
Still, policymakers so far have neglected to consider how much contribution hemp might make to the economy, and this can be attributed to a combination of insufficient assessment, a lack of true exploration, and the relatively small-scale nature so far.
Admittedly, far more work needs to happen in terms of assessing hemp’s financial viability as a potential fuel source. Comparisons must also be drawn with other sources of biofuel, but in all honesty, hemp needs to be looked at in a new light to make true value judgments.
The example of hemp food oil makes the point that we need to embrace a holistic view that lets us see every contribution that hemp might make, rather than just making direct comparisons with traditional fuel sources. Changing the viewpoint with which hemp is viewed isn’t likely to hurt the comparison process, and it might even unveil new opportunities for a society and economy that are more efficient, productive, independent, healthy, and ethical.