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Is industrial hemp the ultimate energy crop?

Bioenergy is currently the fastest growing source of renewable energy. Cultivating energy crops on arable land can decrease dependency on depleting fossil resources and it can mitigate climate change…

Using industrial hemp for the production of bioenergy has been promoted by enthusiasts for a long time. Shutterstock

Bioenergy is currently the fastest growing source of renewable energy. Cultivating energy crops on arable land can decrease dependency on depleting fossil resources and it can mitigate climate change.

But some biofuel crops have bad environmental effects: they use too much water, displace people and create more emissions than they save. This has led to a demand for high-yielding energy crops with low environmental impact. Industrial hemp is said to be just that.

Enthusiasts have been promoting the use of industrial hemp for producing bioenergy for a long time now. With its potentially high biomass yield and its suitability to fit into existing crop rotations, hemp could not only complement but exceed other available energy crops.

Hemp, Cannabis sativa, originates from western Asia and India and from there spread around the globe. For centuries, fibres were used to make ropes, sails, cloth and paper, while the seeds were used for protein-rich food and feed. Interest in hemp declined when other fibres such as sisal and jute replaced hemp in the 19th century.

Abuse of hemp as a drug led to the prohibition of its cultivation by the United Nations in 1961. When prohibition was revoked in the 1990s in the European Union, Canada and later in Australia, industrially used hemp emerged again.

This time, the car industry’s interest in light, natural fibre promoted its use. For such industrial use, modern varieties with insignificant content of psychoactive compounds are grown. Nonetheless, industrial hemp cultivation is still prohibited in some industrialised countries like Norway and the USA.

Energy use of industrial hemp is today very limited. There are few countries in which hemp has been commercialised as an energy crop. Sweden is one, and has a small commercial production of hemp briquettes. Hemp briquettes are more expensive than wood-based briquettes, but sell reasonably well on regional markets.

Large-scale energy uses of hemp have also been suggested.

Biogas production from hemp could compete with production from maize, especially in cold climate regions such as Northern Europe and Canada. Ethanol production is possible from the whole hemp plant, and biodiesel can be produced from the oil pressed from hemp seeds. Biodiesel production from hemp seed oil has been shown to overall have a much lower environmental impact than fossil diesel.

Indeed, the environmental benefits of hemp have been praised highly, since hemp cultivation requires very limited amounts of pesticide. Few insect pests are known to exist in hemp crops and fungal diseases are rare.

Since hemp plants shade the ground quickly after sowing, they can outgrow weeds, a trait interesting especially for organic farmers. Still, a weed-free seedbed is required. And without nitrogen fertilisation hemp won´t grow as vigorously as is often suggested.

So, as with any other crop, it takes good agricultural practice to grow hemp right.

Hemp has a broad climate range and has been cultivated successfully from as far north as Iceland to warmer, more tropical regions. Flickr: Gregory Jordan

Being an annual crop, hemp functions very well in crop rotations. Here it may function as a break crop, reducing the occurance of pests, particularly in cereal production. Farmers interested in cultivating energy crops are often hesitant about tying fields into the production of perennial energy crops such as willow. Due to the high self-tolerance of hemp, cultivation over two to three years in the same field does not lead to significant biomass yield losses.

Small-scale production of hemp briquettes has also proven economically feasible. However, using whole-crop hemp (or any other crop) for energy production is not the overall solution.

Before producing energy from the residues it is certainly more environmentally friendly to use fibres, oils or other compounds of hemp. Even energy in the fibre products can be used when the products become waste.

Recycling plant nutrients to the field, such as in biogas residue, can contribute to lower greenhouse gas emissions from crop production.

Sustainable bioenergy production is not easy, and a diversity of crops will be needed. Industrial hemp is not the ultimate energy crop. Still, if cultivated on good soil with decent fertilisation, hemp can certainly be an environmentally sound crop for bioenergy production and for other industrial uses as well.

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57 Comments sorted by

  1. John Newlands

    tree changer

    I think the basic problem is that plants convert well under 1% of sunlight to fuel in energy terms whereas for solar panels the conversion to electricity is over 10%. However carbon based fuels give vehicles long range. The fossil fuels coal, oil and gas we are now rapidly depleting may have taken 50-300m years to develop and replacing that in real time will be difficult.

    With biodiesel the main feedstock currently is vegetable oil that has been used in cooking. It is has already been paid…

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    1. Mike Jubow

      Forestry nurseryman at Nunyara Wholesale , Forestry consultants, seedling suppliers.

      In reply to John Newlands

      G'day John. I agree with your statement,"In my opinion we should keep as much land as possible for conventional food production in case other parts of the system crash."

      I have been doing some serious trials on bio-fuel plants for internal combustion engine fuel for some time now. The major problem if growing dedicated fuel crops is the energy budget. When the amount of energy invested in growing the plant is tallied up, there obviously has to be a fair surplus in the energy produced by the crop…

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    2. Mark Amey

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to John Newlands

      Interestingly, Rudolf Diesel did various experiments with his engines to prove that they could quite easily run on vegetable oil. he hoped that farmers could manufacture their own oil to fuel all of their farming activities.

      I believe that some modern farmers do this, grow a few acres of a seed crop, then make enough fuel for the rest of the year. Sorry I don't have any references, but google it, you will get millions of hits.

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    3. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to John Newlands

      The Holy Grail, so to speak, is developing microbial digestion of plant fibre (lignins and cellulose, I think) to liquid fuels eg isobutanol.

      Here's the first 10 results when I Googled "isobutanol" at site:sciencedaily.com

      Inexpensive biofuels: Isobutanol made directly from cellulose
      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110307124917.htm
      Mar 7, 2011 - In the quest for inexpensive biofuels, cellulose proved no match for a bioprocessing strategy and a genetically engineered microbe…

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    4. John Newlands

      tree changer

      In reply to Mike Jubow

      I've been making biodiesel for years. I tried growing canola but it needed excessive spraying to control diamondback moth. Several attempts to grow olive trees in Tasmania and Chinese tallow were disappointing. There's plenty of waste vegetable oil if you know how to handle the most rancid stuff. I'm now experimenting with synthetic methane made in a pressure vessel, trying to replicate results eg by the Audi car company. The inputs are H2 and CO2 the latter could come from an organic source which in Germany is scrubbed from biogas. Another non-fossil source of CO2 is oxyfired charcoal.

      My conclusion is we should have bifuel cars (eg the new Chev Impala SUV) than run on compressed natural gas or petrol.That gives time for CNG filling stations to emerge when petrol is over $2 maybe $3 per litre. That price may give hemp or algae biodiesel a look-in but it won't replace 90 million barrels a day of oil.

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    5. Jack Arnold

      Director

      In reply to Mark Amey

      Hi Mark, at Agquip one year they demonstrated a diesel motor running on sunflower oil after starting on diesel fuel. In the past, tractors were started on kerosene then switched over to distillate before faming operations commenced.

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    6. Jack Arnold

      Director

      In reply to John Newlands

      Uhm John ... when travelling in New Zealand during 2012 were were paying over $2 per litre for petrol. Then in Australian remote locations I am advised that petrol & diesel fuels are often over $2/litre.

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    7. Mark Amey

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Jack Arnold

      Yes, something is coming back from my childhood...I seem to remember tractors having a small tank for kero, which was switched off manually, once the engine was running. Perhaps these old oil burners didn't have glow plugs for starting???

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    8. Norm Stone

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Jack Arnold

      Jack I think you will find that old farm tractors started on petrol and switched to kero, I had one. I also had a kero tractor that started with a shotgun cartridge.

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    9. Jennifer Norton

      statistician, researcher, entrepreneur

      In reply to Mike Jubow

      Agreed.
      The EROI (Energy returned on (energy) invested) is crucial if any form of biofuel is to be viable.

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    10. Mike Jubow

      Forestry nurseryman at Nunyara Wholesale , Forestry consultants, seedling suppliers.

      In reply to Norm Stone

      G'day Norm, I don't recall kero tractors starting with a blank shotgun cartridge but the Fowler diesel tractors did. The Fowler Track Marshal was one of these. It was a small bulldozer about the size of a Cat D4 and had a huge single cylinder engine in it. Every firing stroke it blew a smoke ring out of its vertical exhaust pipe that went many metres into the air. We always knew when our neighbour was using his even though the paddock he was working was a couple of miles away and over a small hill because the rising smoke rings gave away his location every time, even in windy weather.

      My first tractor was a Lanz Bulldog which needed a kero blow torch put under the cylinder head for half an hour before trying to start it. It had a shotgun start but mostly we cranked it by hand. Similar to the Fowler, the Bulldog was a single cylinder engine and we saved old sump oil and mixed it 50/50 with distilate to run it. It also blew beautiful smoke rings.

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    11. Mike Jubow

      Forestry nurseryman at Nunyara Wholesale , Forestry consultants, seedling suppliers.

      In reply to Jennifer Norton

      Yes Jennifer, it is the most ignored equation with most of the bio-fuel enthusiasts. Just because you can make fuel out of plants doesn't automatically make it the answer to fossil fuels. Besides, if you want to get rid of the fossil fuels altogether, can you imagine the untold acreages of land it would take to grow it to supply the whole nation? There would probably not be enough land to grow food then.

      That is why I see bio-fuels or indeed any hydrocarbon liquid fuel as nothing more than a stop-gap…

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    12. Eclipse Now

      Manager of Graphic Design firm

      In reply to John Newlands

      Hi John,
      I totally agree that we're not going to approach anywhere near 90mbd of liquid fuels for driving. We don't need to. 13 new EV's are coming onto the market this year.
      http://cleantechnica.com/2014/01/03/13-electric-vehicles-coming-market-2014/

      Just as we have diesel and gas and petrol cars, there will be a mix of fuels. Rechargable boron, EV's, hydrogen and synfuel should be able to power our various car, harvester and construction vehicle needs. Economics is the big one, and now that oil is getting so pricey, EV's are starting to look pretty good.

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    13. John Holmes

      Agronomist - semi retired consultant

      In reply to Mike Jubow

      Have we "been there done that?"

      Grandpa grew fuel (hay and oats) to work the farm with horses. It has been suggested (Coming Famine by Julian Cribb) that the area required for horses is similar to that of growing crops for bio-fuel - say biodiesel. Also is fairly simple technology.

      Probably bit better than having to get up at 4 Am to feed them to get a good days work in.

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    14. John Holmes

      Agronomist - semi retired consultant

      In reply to Mike Jubow

      And you hear them miles away so you knew when the neighbor + 1 was working and when he went home to bed.

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    1. Jack Arnold

      Director

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Hi Suzy, hemp is presently used in house construction to provide insulation and strength within the adobe style walls. The process was developed at Southern Cross University Lismore NSW.

      There may be a use in "hay bale"style constructions where the thickness of the bales, about 15 inches, provides excellent insulation while the natural insecticide content of the fibre may inhibit pest occupancy aided by the lime rendering.

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    2. Suzy Gneist

      Multiple: self-employed, employed, student, mother, volunteer, Free-flyer

      In reply to Jack Arnold

      My point, Jack. I built my strawbale house 12 years ago now and did a lot of research into natural building materials, hemp products were not available to me at that time, but could be much more widely used - whether as insulation, as an ingredient in render or natural interior wall lining alternatives.
      My point was that there many other lasting uses for the embedded energy of hemp other than fuel.

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    3. Eclipse Now

      Manager of Graphic Design firm

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Exactly Suzy, I hear you. Especially when electric cars are on the way. Governments still have much to learn about better public transport systems and New Urban design that can remove the need for the cars in the first place!

      PS: While I love hemp for the nutrition and fibre, there are other materials we can build houses out of. Try ordinary household waste, including dirty nappies, old pizza boxes, and worn out joggers! Run them through a plasma burner and you can turn ordinary household waste into about half the products you need to build the next house!
      http://eclipsenow.wordpress.com/recycle/

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    4. Suzy Gneist

      Multiple: self-employed, employed, student, mother, volunteer, Free-flyer

      In reply to Eclipse Now

      I'd be concerned about off gassing from these products - during burning or later - straw seems a much cleaner alternative than household rubbish with its many different petrochemical components. That isn't to say that garbage is definitely one area requiring new approaches to reduce, reuse, recycle.
      BTW, my old cloth nappies are still useful wipes, later rags and finally compost additions - its the throwaway attitude we need to address.

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    5. Eclipse Now

      Manager of Graphic Design firm

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Is it easier to change people's attitudes and hearts, or just install a plasma burner at the local tip that recycles *everything*? I'm voting for the plasma burner. Not everyone wants to wash nappies all day, although I can see the appeal. ;-) Also, there is no toxic 'off-gassing' when the scrubbers are set up right. Remember, the gases are mostly captured and sent to the petro-chemical industry for reuse. Nappies into sunglasses and paints and varnishes and glues. Mix the glues with the slag spun into rock-wool, and you can have a safe replacement for asbestos. Indeed, plasma burners can *burn* asbestos and turn it into safe useful products.

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    6. Suzy Gneist

      Multiple: self-employed, employed, student, mother, volunteer, Free-flyer

      In reply to Eclipse Now

      People's attitudes and hearts change all the time, maybe it is the perceived benefits which need to be reevaluated by individuals and society against the actual impacts. Because of our relatively short lifespan, we reduce everything to less than our own timeline and lose sight and understanding of why some old habits have been proven as valuable for generations and how these will benefit the future if maintained.
      BTW petrochemical varnishes and glues do off-gas, which is why i opted for natural products for use in my home - those glues you suggest using in building materials will likely make for unhealthy housing, maybe not as deadly as asbestos, but unhealthy nonetheless.

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    7. Eclipse Now

      Manager of Graphic Design firm

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Oh I see! I thought you were concerned about the plasma-burn process itself. I hear you on off-gassing, that's fine. Also, with my sister-in-law teaching passive solar sustainable design, I really do appreciate the value of straw bale thermal mass, passive solar value, and non-toxic, rodent resistant building material. But here's the thing. It's not either / or, one of the other. It's both / and.
      Plasma burners still have a place in building car panels and converting rubbish into useful materials…

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    8. Suzy Gneist

      Multiple: self-employed, employed, student, mother, volunteer, Free-flyer

      In reply to Eclipse Now

      I don't recall stating i was 'against' something, merely that i chose materials for specific reasons (health, pollution, environment) and that the embedded energy in hemp has many more useful energy uses other than fuel.

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    9. Eclipse Now

      Manager of Graphic Design firm

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      OK, I think we're basically in agreement then. Good stuff. The embodied energy of hemp IS more valuable than the combusted energy value, because we have other more efficient ways of producing energy than biofuel. We'll soon have all the clean power we need in Integral Fast Reactors (a GenIV reactor which is SAFE and burns nuclear *waste*!) That will solve our climate and nuclear waste storage issues, permanently. Then we can save hemp for food and building materials and biochar. All good.

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  2. Dale Bloom

    Analyst

    There has been speculation that Australia was originally considered as a hemp growing colony.

    http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/ockhamsrazor/was-australia-intended-as-a-hemp-colony3f/4240480

    If hemp requires synthetic fertiliser such as nitrogen produced by the energy expensive Haber–Bosch process, then I doubt that hemp could supply more energy back than the energy used to grow it.

    Although hemp may be useful as a crop for various products such as paper and textiles.

    However, I would not like to see more land clearing to grow hemp, as Australia already has one of the worst land clearing records in the world, to ultimately achieve our current national debt.

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    1. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      Alternative nitrogen sources:
      1) rotate with leguminous crops
      2) engineer rhizobia-supporting root nodules into oyther cropping plants.

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    2. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to David Arthur

      Agreed, but similar has been used for many years in the past, and the cost pressures of farming are now so great, fallowing the block or growing legumes becomes too expensive, and eventually the farmer fallows less and relies more on synthetic fertilisers.

      However, there was a trial block of hemp grown in central QLD some years ago, and it achieved what was believed to be a world record for tonnes of hemp per acre.

      If hemp was more profitable than sugar cane, there is a possibility of converting blocks growing sugar cane into hemp, and producing something from the hemp such as paper.

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    3. Eclipse Now

      Manager of Graphic Design firm

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      I'd vote for that Dale. Sugar's not very good for us anyway, and hemp protein might do us all some good.

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    4. Jack Arnold

      Director

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      Interesting point Dale. Hemp ropes were a major expense for the British Navy (BN) of the 18th century and required regular replacement. India (now Pakistan) was the principle source of hemp ropes.

      Frost makes a similar claim that Australia was NOT established primarily as a penal colony, but rather as a resource supplier for the BN. Indeed, there was an early suggestion to remove the colony from Sydney Harbour to Norfolk Island because of the available pines for ship's masts. This was rejected when the pipes of rot were discovered in most trees.

      Alan Frost (2003) "The Global Reach of Empire; Britain's maritime expansion in the Indian and Pacific Oceans1764 -1815", Melbourne University Press.

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    5. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Jack Arnold

      One interpretation of the word “canvas” is that it came from the Dutch pronunciation of “cannabis”, as canvas was originally made from the cannabis hemp plant, and the Dutch produced a lot of canvas.

      There were also canvas sails, and for a piece of interesting trivia, the word “spinnaker" may have come from a large sailing boat called the “Sphinx”

      The crew of that boat developed a very large headsail that they could use for sailing downwind. It was said to be an acre in size, and this became known as “Sphinx’s acre”, which gradually became “spinnaker”.

      I don’t know if that is true or not, but early sailing boats must have had strong rigging to support the weight of the canvas sails, particularly if those sails became wet.

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    6. Miles Ruhl

      Thinker

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      Ah the Dutch, always the leaders in all things cannabis...bless 'em.

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  3. David Arthur

    resistance gnome

    But if low/zero THC industrial hemp production becomes commonplace, won't all that low-THC pollen contaminate "recreational" crops, possibly decreasing the incidence of THC-induced schizophrenia?

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    1. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      I daresay Mr Bolt's remaining years would be greatly aided by medicinal cannabis, should he ever develop a condition that might warrant the same.

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  4. Vivienne Porzsolt

    logged in via email @gmail.com

    I think it is totally outrageous to promote the cultivation of crops for bio-fuels when every scrap of land is needed to feed people. By all means use waste materials, that is a great thing and needs to be explored further. But hands off food resources.

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    1. Eclipse Now

      Manager of Graphic Design firm

      In reply to Vivienne Porzsolt

      Vivienne, this is being touted as a food AND fuel resource.
      Regards

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    2. Robert Merkel

      Lecturer in Software Engineering at Monash University

      In reply to Vivienne Porzsolt

      Vivienne, this isn't actually true.

      The amount of land under cultivation in the USA and Western Europe has actually *declined* over the past century, despite a massive expansion in food production.

      Not that this necessarily makes biofuels a good idea, but the idea that we are currently short of arable land simply isn't true.

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    3. Eclipse Now

      Manager of Graphic Design firm

      In reply to Robert Merkel

      Robert, according to Lester Brown one tank of corn grain ethanol could have fed 1 person for a year. Also, the question isn't whether arable land has decreased a little, but what that land is actually used for. Soil erosion and the loss of arable land is a very serious global issue. Taking farmland and dedicating it to feeding cars instead of feeding people so concerned to the Australian Medical Association that they submitted a paper to the Australian Senate peak oil enquiry. Not only that, but Bruce Robinson of ASPO Australia says that if we turned ALL our crops into fuel, we'd have something like 12% of the liquid fuels we need and no Weet Bix or bread.

      Biofuels are *not* the answer: discovering 'negabarrels' instead of pretending we're going to find mega-barrels in a corn field is!

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  5. Mark McGuire

    climate consensus rebel

    Was there a scientific & political consensus about hemp leading to the prohibition legislation? Have we learnt our lesson from this flawed collective thinking?

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    1. Miles Ruhl

      Thinker

      In reply to Mark McGuire

      No, mainly just a financial one, led by industries that were in direct competition with the hemp industry.

      As stated in the article, the fibre was far too robust and long-lasting to turn any good profits, hence the cotton and other inferior-product industries had it shut out completely, to the detriment of consumers (but to the advantage of the capitalist machine at the time - profit, profit, profit and nothing else).

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  6. John Davidson

    Retired engineer

    Bio fuels from waste are fine but once we start talking about growing energy crops we are talking about either diverting agricultural land doing things like clearing wild jungles to grow palm oil.
    Biofuels are not only potential transportable fuels that reduce greenhouse gases using existing technology. For example:
    -If we have clean power we make clean hydrogen.
    -If we have clean hydrogen:
    **We can combine it with nitrogen to make liquid ammonia. Liquid ammonia can be used as a transport fuel…

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    1. Eclipse Now

      Manager of Graphic Design firm

      In reply to John Davidson

      Hi John,
      I went to your blog but the comments were really hit with spam. Are you monitoring it? Basically I was wondering if what you say is economically feasible?

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  7. PJ McNeill

    logged in via Facebook

    Interesting article, but I would change: "Abuse of hemp as a drug led to the prohibition of its cultivation by the United Nations in 1961" to: "Use of hemp as a drug led to the prohibition of its cultivation by the United Nations in 1961".

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  8. John Doyle
    John Doyle is a Friend of The Conversation.

    architect

    Hemp's a good choice.
    However as we are now beginning to wean ourselves off sugar, we could gainfully use the sugar cane crop for biofuel, which it's pretty good for.
    Sugar is already a huge crop here and will eventually have to adjust to a reduced demand as we wean our appetites away from excess sugar consumption.
    Much better for it to be in our cars rather than our guts.

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  9. Charles Waller

    USPS, Ret.

    I beg to differ with the author on the point of abuse of cannabis leading to prohibition. Prohibition was the result of many things, but abuse of cannabis was not one of the factors. Emerging commercial and industrial interests were major factors in the demonizing and prohibition of cannabis. Racist repression of center segments of the population was a major factor in promoting prohibition. Abuse was not a major factor.

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    1. PJ McNeill

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Charles Waller

      Quite, but the term 'marijuana' (a Mexican nickname for the psychoactive buds and not familiar to US citizens) was used as a proxy, to carry the hemp plant through to prohibition. Most people didn't realise what was being prohibited, and would have been up-in-arms had they known.

      It's interesting to note that during WWII, the US government 're-legalised' hemp, because artificial replacement products couldn't supply the war effort. The US Department of Agriculture made a film, 'Hemp For Victory', in 1942, urging farmers to grow as much of the crop as they could.

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  10. Robert Merkel

    Lecturer in Software Engineering at Monash University

    Every time I've looked at the numbers, we would have to devote a huge fraction of our agricultural land to energy crop production were we to make a significant dent in our energy needs from biofuels.

    At best, biomass might be useful for aircraft fuel and for peaking power when the grid is under heavy load.

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  11. John Holmes

    Agronomist - semi retired consultant

    Not discussed is the relative efficacy of this crop. The web suggests that is is C3.

    Compare wheat with corn. Corn a C4 crop will make about 3 times as much dry matter as wheat a C3 crop, using roughly the same amount of water However C4 crops tend to not work too well in cool conditions, yet are far more efficient at light use.

    Not sure if this plant is the answer, depends of the situation and use of what is produced.

    We can expect some teething problems. Trials in the 80's using existing paper equipment found that it did not make paper as fast in Tas. as the pulp was slower to drain on the filters.

    However an additional crop to increase rotation options should be ecologically useful.

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    1. John Holmes

      Agronomist - semi retired consultant

      In reply to John Holmes

      Please an edit function to correct the typo's/ & dyslexic handicaps.

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  12. Terry Cook

    logged in via Facebook

    I am following in the foot steps of the three best progressives in the last 100 years. Nikola Tesla wanted everybody to have there own electrical power. The late & great, Jack Herer, author of The Emperor Wears No Clothes, stated that 6% of our farmland would take care of all energy needs. Edwin Black, author of Internal Combustion, stated, hydrogen is the total answer for our heat and energy needs. I say, launching the hydrogen economy, hemp, and self-sufficient industry by way of thetopcatplan will serve to phase out fossil fuel and poison chemicals use, stop our downward spiral, stamp out world hunger, and get our freedom and liberty back. Go to the category ENERGY to get 17 divisions of green products & services. Top Cat II

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    1. John Doyle
      John Doyle is a Friend of The Conversation.

      architect

      In reply to Terry Cook

      I don't think we have the luxury of time to get these alternatives up and running before we hill the cliff.
      The only reason I suggested sugar was that while ever we have it we need another use for it. Biofuels are low on the EROEI equation, worse than shale gas or tar sands. For us to be able to use solar as electricity generation depends on the survival of the technical expertise post crash.
      We'd be better off with hydro power which is the highest EROEI source. At least the dams will still mostly be around. As for hydrogen, that's a technical feat there is no guarantee of having long term.
      The downward spiral is too close to stop. No one is taking it seriously and no one believes this mathematical certainty is any such thing. There is no technical quick fix. We'd already know about it if there was.

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