By Dion Markgraaff
The cannabis plant is the key to the revolution in reducing our energy economic costs to individuals and our environment. The bottom line in this change is all based on the financial numbers plugged into a mathematical equation that results in the lowest number. Money, the amount we all pay for energy, is going to decide what society chooses for a power source, and cannabis in a free market will be the overwhelmingly clear choice. The glands of cannabis flowers will pay for the entire cultivation effort, leaving the rest of the plant cost-free for energy and other more valuable products.
There is 100% no doubt that cannabis CAN be energy/fuel. Cannabis biomass is capable of being transformed into electricity and fuels (methane, methanol, gasoline) more efficiently than fossil fuels (coal, oil) and without the poisonous pollution. Raw and â€œleftoverâ€ processed cannabis â€“ where fiber, seeds, buds/nugs and/or trichromes are separated into different high value products â€“ is fed into existing and working manufacturers of energy. Cannabis (a sustainable eco-friendly resource) along with trash, algae production and industrial waste will together make up local energy independence around the world. The transition to this less costly society will be cannabis, the key to this economic freedom â€“ an ideal feedstock (a resource to feed the energy factories).
The key to the magical and practical â€œformulaâ€ for social and economic freedom is based on cannabis being in a totally liberated market. The highly valued glands of the flowers must be utilized industrially. Perhaps the cultivation efforts could be subsidized by the government, but not restricted. Society will probably have to regulate seed varieties to guarantee high quality trichomes, the opposite of what governments do today.
Cannabis Sativa is One Plant
Mankindâ€™s recent history with cannabis has been radically twisted by corporate manipulation. This mass repression has resulted in our present misunderstanding, which dominates society so much that the misinformation has even affected the cannabis community. Some people know about industrial hemp, some know about medical, and others know about the recreational uses. Each separate group could unite and learn from each other. The greatest social and economic freedom would result from harnessing all of the plantâ€™s enormous power.
All varieties of cannabis can be made into food, paper, clothes, plastics, explosives, building materials, and more, including energy. Farmers, over time, can grow and breed in or out different characteristics to increase whatever the plant needs. Different strains could be crossbred to have more cellulose content for biomass production, fiber yields for paper and textiles, and seed sizes for consumption. This is the same process that growers use in breeding different cannabis strains for various medical needs. Still, the most important thing to remember for this economic analysis is that the greatest value and desire for humans is in harvesting the glands of the flowers.
Cannabis for Power
There have been few studies and very little written about cannabis for energy. The newspaper The Guardian wrote an article titled â€œWhy is hemp off the biofuel menu?â€ that stated, â€œThe Royal Society, the European Commission and the UK Government have all managedâ€¦to take the wind out of the sails of the biofuel industry, publishing reports that suggest biofuels could be causing more harm than good, the crops not being as environmentally friendly as first thoughtâ€¦. What struck me as astonishing about these reports is that they all managed to ignore the one crop that has been successfully used for many years to create bioethanol and biodiesel, which are environmentally friendlier to produce than sugar beets, palm oil, corn or any of the crops mentioned in the report, and can grow in practically any temperate to hot climate, leaving the ground in better condition than when it was plantedâ€¦.That plant is hemp.â€
The main source of information on cannabis for fuel since the late 1980s has been the late Jack Herer and his hemp bible, The Emperor Wears No Clothes. A cornerstone of the bookâ€™s main thesis is how hemp can meet all of our energy needs based on an article, Energy Farming in America, by Lynn Osburn. A more recent article by Jeremy Briggs of Hemphasis, Hemp as a Fuel/Energy Source, presents more details on the different possible processes for converting cannabis into various fuels.
Cannabis is better than other crops
Hemp has more biomass/cellulose potential than its nearest rivals: cornstalks, sugarcane, kenaf, trees, etc. Over 10% of todayâ€™s gasoline is made from corn and it is by far the crop that cannabis will have to displace as the Unted Statesâ€™ biggest biomass crop. This corn ethanol is currently being used as a fuel additive, replacing toxic methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE).
The bottom line is that cannabis is better in performance, itâ€™s environmentally sustainable, and most importantly, itâ€™s cheaper. A 1998 study from the University of Kentucky, Economic Impact of Industrial Hemp in Kentucky, stated, Even without the glands of the flowers, that cannabis is more profitable than most crops farmers can grow. (see Table 1)
Cannabisâ€™ competitors are subsidized by the government and our tolerance of this system.
Cannabis fuel/energy/power faces big competition, which is subsidized by the government and doesnâ€™t factor in â€œtrue costsâ€ of polluting and dangers of current sources. For decades, the petroleum and timber industries have been subsidized by governments and the publicâ€™s tolerance of this oligarchy system. The Reason Foundation study, Illegally Green: Environmental Costs of Hemp Prohibition, states, â€œNot only has the government banned hemp production in the U.S., it is also directly subsidizing other crops that the study shows to be â€˜environmentally inferior.â€™ Corn farmers received $51 billion in subsidies between 1995 and 2005; wheat farmers were given $21 billion; cotton farmers fleeced taxpayers for $15 billion; and tobacco farmers were handed $530 million in taxpayer-funded subsidies.â€
Much larger subsidies are spent on wars for petroleum oil. The price of war is incalculable, but it is surely in the trillions. Think of all the cost in money and lives we have spent on â€œourâ€ national interest of â€œsecuringâ€ petroleum for energy needs. War is bad, but nuclear energy may be worse. Not only are we collectively pooping on each other right now, but we are leaving a highly poisonous legacy for our childrenâ€™s children. The recent Japanese nuclear meltdowns (3 different reactors) are a glimpse of what we are risking all over the world and right here in San Diego with San Onofre. Hopefully, the public will demand changes as it has already happened in Germany and Switzerland, who have said recently that their governments will end nuclear energy in their countries. These bad industries â€“ petroleum and nuclear energy â€“ are even worse when one considers how cannabis can make local, clean, and safe energy while creating jobs, benefiting local economies that promote egalitarianism amongst the many, and not accruing individual power.
Seeds are not the Solution
There are basically two main ways to get fuel out of cannabis. One of the ways is to convert the hemp seed oil into biodiesel. Hemp seed oil has historically been used as lamp oil. The concept of using plant oil as an engine fuel dates back to 1895 when Dr. Rudolf Diesel developed the first diesel engine to run on vegetable oil. Diesel demonstrated his engine at the World Exhibition in Paris in 1900, using peanut oil as fuel. 10 years ago, a car, powered solely by 600 gallons of hemp biodiesel fuel made from the seeds of the plant, drove 13,000 miles all around the United States and Canada to expose the energy potential of cannabis.
The process to convert cannabis oil into high-grade diesel fuel is simple. In 2010, researchers at the University of Connecticut found that industrial hemp seed oil has the ability to produce biodiesel with an incredible efficiency of conversion (97%). The studyâ€™s laboratory tests determined that this green fuel could be used at much lower temperatures than any biodiesel currently on the market. However, this same study is a great example of the seemingly willful lack of understanding or research of the cannabis plant. Richard Parnas, a professor of chemical, materials, and biomolecular engineering, and who also led the study, states that one of the advantages of hemp is that it does not compete in the food market. In fact, the opposite is true; hemp seed oil is too valuable as a food source. It contains the best balanced essential fatty acids for humans, in addition to being the best source of protein. Currently, the retail price of a gallon of hemp seed oil is over $100. The seedâ€™s high value and the U.S.â€™s ban on its cultivation are the reasons why industrial cannabis is already the most profitable crop in Canada, with farmers making $300 to $600 an acre for growing hemp. American farmers are making a fraction of this amount on cotton, corn, soy and other popular crops.
Biomass Energy: Cannabis is the â€œmissingâ€ feedstock â€“ the X-factor
The U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are â€œboth strongly committed to expanding the role of biomass as an energy source. In particular, they support biomass fuels and products as a way to reduce the need for oil and gas imports; as a way of supporting the growth of agriculture, forestry, and rural economies; and as a way to foster major, new domestic industries in the form of biorefineries that manufacture a variety of fuels, chemicals, and other products.â€
Cannabis is one of the best plants at producing lots of biomass. In less than four months, cannabis can create over 3.5 tons (a conservative average) of dry feedstock. According to Fuelfiber.com, cannabis conversion rates estimates vary; 25 to over 100 gallons of fuel per ton of biomass is created. Biomass Magazine reported about tests done back in 2007 and 2008 in Canada for bioenergy â€œthat show straw yields of 6 tons per hectare (2.47 acres) and 1.5 tons of fiber, in addition to 200 liters (50 gallons) of oil pressed from the seed.â€ Yields will vary in different locations around the world. In a biofuel study in Ireland (one of the leading countries in the world in researching hemp biomass energy), farmers yielded 5 tons per acre (12.5 tons/hectare). A 1998 Oregon State University study, Feasibility of Industrial Hemp Production in the United Statesâ€™ Pacific Northwest, by Daryl T. Ehrensing analyzed various numbers of reported yields from around the world, and he used 5 tons per acre in his economic feasibility study. In 1913, The United States Department of Agriculture reported that hemp farmersâ€™ dry stem yields ranged from 2 tons per acre to 12.5 tons per acre, but averaged 5 tons per acre under good conditions.
There are already biomass power stations being built in San Diego! A company named Envirepel Energy, Inc., located in Vista, has built its first Renewable Energy Facility (Kittyhawk). The companyâ€™s first facility has been relocated from Vista to Santee with plans to build more biomass power plants in San Diego and other locations. Envirepel Energy will be using local industrial waste that would have otherwise gone into our shrinking landfills. The San Diego Union-Tribune reported the companyâ€™s success last year, â€œThe Kittyhawk Project is a 2.5 MW biomass fueled power generating facility. The â€˜anti-global warmingâ€™ and virtually non-polluting facility design was permitted and built in the middle of a commercial business park.â€
Big business already knows about biofuels too, according to Chevron.com, â€œChevron is especially interested in â€˜green crudeâ€™ â€“ biomass-based fuels with a chemical composition similar to crude oil and biohydrocarbons. Biohydrocarbons are biomass-based finished products that are chemically identical to their petroleum-based cousins.â€ According to the U.S. Department of Energy, â€œThe success of the U.S. bioindustry depends, to a large degree, on the quantity and quality of biomass available, and on the industryâ€™s ability to cost-effectively utilize biomass for energy production.â€ Cannabis can do it!
What would be the price of a gallon of hemp gasoline? Less than $2?
A guess of the price for ethanol made from hemp biomass would be less than $2 or certainly $3 per gallon. Because the flowers of the cannabis plant can pay for all the costs of cultivation, the free leftovers should be much cheaper than all other biomass, including corn. According to the Oregon Department of Energy, â€œThe cost of producing ethanol varies with the cost of the feedstock used and the scale of production. Approximately 85% of ethanol production capacity in the United States relies on corn feedstock. The cost of producing ethanol from corn is estimated to be about $1.10 per gallon. Although there is currently no commercial production of ethanol from cellulosic feedstocks such as agricultural wastes, grasses and wood, the estimated production cost for using these feedstocks is $1.15 to $1.43 per gallon. Because a gallon of ethanol contains less energy than a gallon of gasoline, the production cost of ethanol must be multiplied by a factor of 1.5 to make an energy-cost comparison with gasoline. This means that if ethanol costs $1.10 per gallon to produce, then the effective cost per gallon to equal the energy contained in a gallon of gasoline is $1.65.â€ From this analysis, one could safely say the cost of the conversion from cannabis to a comparable gallon of gasoline would be less than $2.
Hash will cover the costs – How many pounds of hashish per acre?
Whatever numbers a person plugs into the mathematical equation â€“ the flowers, glands or trichomes would pay for the total cost of cultivation, with a healthy profit for everyone. Today, with hashish production being widely prohibited, it is hard to get an exact number of pounds per acre, especially on a huge industrial scale. Colorado hemp historian, Julian Alexander III, re-discovered this long lost bulletin on how to grow cannabis, which was prepared by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 1915. The USDA estimates that a farmer can expect to yield â€œ400 to 500 pounds of dried tops per acre.â€ In a paper published by California NORMLâ€™s Dale H. Gieringer, he stated, â€œIn 1984, Lebanese hash production was estimated at 700 metric tons for 20,000 hectares, or about 30 pounds per acre.â€
Therefore, a conservative figure of 10 to 50 pounds of hash per acre seems reasonable. If the farmer was paid $1000 (way more than they would be), and other costs like water and fertilizers were another $1000 (way more than the costs would be), then the cost of $2000 per acre would make 10 pounds of hash and would be $200 a pound. If there was a yield of 50 pounds, then the cost per pound would be $40. A price of $40 to $200 per pound of hash would break down the cost (pennies per gram) to the consumer. This would also mean that the rest of the plant would be cost free for energy or other higher valued products.
The bottom line is money $
The price of fuel is based on yield and value. The exact numbers in this economic analysis of cannabis for energy is not the point. The bottom line: cannabis is better and cheaper than our current choices.Â The elasticity of the prices for hash, buds, and tons of cannabis biomass, when industrialized on a huge multi-million acre scale, is bound to have dramatic consequences. People will just have to get used to paying way less for the flowers while getting more bang for the buck at the gas station.
This change in choices in the source of energy would also mean lots of local jobs. A 1998 study from the University of Kentucky, Economic Impact of Industrial Hemp in Kentucky, stated, â€œIf just a fraction of the agricultural counties in Kentucky went into the industrial hemp business, thousands of jobs and sizable earnings would be created. If just one-fourth of Kentuckyâ€™s 90 agricultural counties went into the industrial hemp business, approximately 17,348 jobs would be created and $396 million in worker earnings generated yearly.â€
All of the economic models published today that study this subject are based on a major misunderstanding when it comes to analyzing the use of the cannabis plant. In a completely free society and marketplace, nothing can compete with cannabis.
Cannabis Energy: Natureâ€™s Power Plant – The Final Solution
Cannabis is the planetâ€™s best source for power. As fuel costs continue to increase over time, we will see this cannabis equation grow in its dramatic validity. Today, with our current policy for importing energy, the higher the price of energy, the more we are all losing. In a model where local energy is made, even if the prices are as high, the money we spend would stay here and strengthen the local economy. Years ago, former CIA director James Woolsey wrote in a Wall Street Journal article, â€œThe production of ethyl alcohol from biomass may turn out to be as revolutionary as the production of integrated circuits from silicon, vastly affecting the worldâ€™s distribution of wealth and the fundamentals of international security.â€
Think about how much we spend in California on cannabis right now; itâ€™s over $14 billion. If you consider that amount of money set in the formula suggested in this article, then $14 billion divided by the costs of $2,000 per acre equals 7 million acres of cannabis; this could be grown every year. This number of acres would produce 35 million tons of â€œwasteâ€ biomass for energy or 3.5 billion gallons of cost free fuel. Plus, the main byproduct would be at 70 million pounds of hash (at the low figure of 10 lbs. per acre). Again, this would not necessarily meet all of our energy needs, but it would be a key (x) factor in transitioning the world off of unsustainable energy systems and onto a smarter, healthier, more efficient and egalitarian way of harnessing natureâ€™s power.
The cannabis revolution is now; all we need is the freedom to grow.