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 to get our power from 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€œleft overâ€ processed cannabis, where fiber, seeds, buds/nugs, and/or trichromes are separated into different high value products, is fed into existing working manufactures 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, which is the missing key factor to this economic freedom â€“ an ideal feedstock (a resource to feed the energy factories).
Even the government knows hempâ€™s energy potential. The excellent and informative policy study from the Reason Foundation found in their policy study, Illegally Green: Environmental Costs of Hemp Prohibition, â€œthe California Energy Commission is among those agencies that have listed hemp as a potential biomass energy crop.â€ The Hemp Industries Association states, â€œAccording to the Department of Energy, hemp as a biomass fuel producer requires the least specialized growing and processing procedures of all hemp products. The hydrocarbons in hemp can be processed into a wide range of biomass energy sources, from fuel pellets to liquid fuels and gas.â€
The keys to the magical and practical â€œformulaâ€ to social and economic freedom are based on cannabis being in a totally liberated market. The highly valued glands of the flowers must be able to be utilized industrially. Perhaps the cultivation efforts could be subsidized by the government, but not restricted. Probably society will have to regulate seed varieties to make sure of the high quality of trichromes, the opposite of what governments do today.
Cannabis sativa is one plant
Mankindâ€™s recent history with cannabis has been radically twisted by a cabal of corporate manipulation. This mass repression has resulted in our present misunderstanding which dominates society so much the misinformation has even affected the cannabis community. Some people know about industrial hemp, some medical and others about 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.
Cannabis sativa (L.), the plantâ€™s scientific name, is one species. Hemp is the English name and has become associated only with industrial uses. This metamorphosis is the â€œhempâ€ industries attempt to disassociate itself with recreational â€œmarijuanaâ€, to become more politically acceptable. Cannabis seed varieties have been bred to contain virtually no tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a source of the medicinal and recreational effects. Many people do not know that THC has evolved over millions of years as a natural protector of the plant. Meaning the less THC in the plant, the cannabis is less environmentally friendly.
All varieties of cannabis can be made into food, paper, clothes, plastics, explosives, building materials, and more, including energy. Farmers over time can grow can breed in or out different characteristics to increase whatever the needs are for the plant. Different strains could be cross bred to have more cellulose content for biomass production, fiber yields for paper and textiles, and seed sizes for consumption. This process is the same as growers have done in breeding different cannabis strains for various medical needs. Still the most important thing to remember for this economic analysis, the greatest value and desire for humans is the harvesting the glands of the flowers.
Little info on the subject of cannabis for power
There have been few studies and very little written about cannabis for energy. The newspaper, The Guardian, wrote an article called Why is hemp off the biofuel menu?, stating 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 which has been successfully used for many years to create bioethanol and biodiesel, is environmentally friendlier to produce than sugar beet, 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 of cannabis for fuel since the late 1980â€™s has been the late Jack Herer and his hempbible, The Emperor Wearâ€™s No Clothes. A cornerstone of the books 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 of the different possible processes to convert cannabis into various fuels.
One of the most comprehensive sources of information with a plan of action for California is from the company Fuel and Fiber Company, who published in 2001, Hemp Biomass for Energy, by Tim Castleman. This economic analysis includes prices and production targets for farmers and energy factories. A part of the plan says â€œThe Fuel and Fiber Company Renewable Resource System will process 300,000 to 600,000 tons of biomass per year, per facility; 25% to 35% of this will be high-value grades of core-free bast fiber. The remaining 65% to 75% of biomass will be used for the conversion process. Each facility will process input from 60,000 to 170,000 acres. Outputs are: Ethanol: 10-25 MGY (Million Gallons per Year), Fiber: 67,000 to 167,000 tons per year, and other co-products; fertilizer, animal feed, etc. to be determined. Hemp production will average 3.9 tons per acre with average costs of $520 per acre.â€
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 is by far the crop that cannabis will have to displace as the United States biggest biomass crop. This corn ethanol is currently being used as a fuel additive, replacing toxic methyl tertiary ether (MTBE).
The bottom line is cannabis is better in performance, environmentally sustainable, and most importantly for most â€“ 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€™s 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 does not factor in â€œtrue costsâ€ of polluting and dangers of current sources. For decades the petroleum and timber industry has been subsidized by governments and the publicâ€™s tolerance of this oligarchy system. Even The Reason Foundation study Illegally Green: Environmental Costs of Hemp Prohibition, 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 “environmentally inferior.” 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 subsides are spent on wars for petroleum oil. The price of war is incalculable, but surely in the trillions of dollars. 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 maybe worse. Not only are we collectively pooping on each other 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 has happened in Germany and Switzerland, who have said recently that their governments will end nuclear energy in their countries. These bad industries, petroleum and nuclear energy, are even worse when one considers how cannabis can make local, clean, safe energy, creating local jobs, benefiting local economies that promote egalitarianismÂ amongst the many, 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. Ten years ago a car, powered solely by 600 gallons of hemp bio-diesel 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 University of Connecticut found that industrial hemp seed oil has the ability to produce biodiesel with an incredible efficiency of conversion (97 percent). The studiesâ€™ laboratoryâ€™s tests showed this green fuel could be used at 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 who led the study, states one of the advantages of hemp is that it does not compete in the food market. Today, anyone could spend a few seconds on the internet to see a vast amount of information about hemp food, as well as see various products at local supermarkets everywhere.
In fact the opposite is true; hemp seed oil is too valuable as a food source, containing 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. Only the relatively small amount of hemp oil deemed not good enough for consumption would go towards fuel. The seedâ€™s high value and US farmers ban on cultivation are the reasons 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 for cotton, corn, soy and other popular crops.
Biomass energy â€“
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€
The Union of Concerned Scientists said on biomass, â€œTo many people, the most familiar forms of renewable energy are the wind and the sun. But biomass (plant material and animal waste) is the oldest source of renewable energy, used since our ancestors learned the secret of fire.â€ Biomass is any plant or tree matter in large quantity. Remember petroleum oil and coal are just fossilized biomass. There are numerous sources of biomass including our trash, algae, and industrial waste. Our state says on their website, â€œCalifornia produces more than 60 million bone dry tons of biomass each year. Of this total, five million bone dry tons is now burned to make electricity. This is biomass from lumber mill wastes, urban wood waste, forest and agricultural residues and other feed stocks.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 from 25 to over 100 gallons of fuel per ton of biomass is created. Biomass Magazine reported about tests done 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 â€œFeasibility of Industrial Hemp Production in the United States Pacific Northwestâ€ by Daryl T. Ehrensing, analyzed various numbers of reported yields from around the world and used 5 tons per acre in his economic feasibility study. In 1913, The United States Department of Agriculture reported 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 several ways to convert biomass into electricity and other useful fuels. From the old way of direct combustion to new ways using of gasification, which heats biomass in the presence of a carefully controlled amount of oxygen and under pressure. Another important method is to make the raw biomass more energy dense by drying, grinding and pressing biomass into â€œpelletsâ€. This increases the transportation economic viability. These pellets can be used directly by consumers in their homes, as well directly into existing large scale coal burning and petroleum oil powered plants in part or completely. This is the same concept as the â€œhemp logsâ€ for fireplaces (NUG Magazine wrote about in our March 2010 issue), where the British company Hemp Technology took hemp scraps off the factory floor and pressed them into logs to be sold all over their country.
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 relocating 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 gone into our shrinking landfills. The San Diego Union reported the companyâ€™s success last year, â€œThe Kittyhawk Project is a 2.5 MW biomass fueled power generating facility. The “anti-global warming” 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 Cheveron.com â€œChevron is especially interested in “green crude”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 US 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 industry’s ability to cost-effectively utilize biomass for energy production.â€ Cannabis can do it!
What would be the price of a gallon of â€œhemp gasolineâ€? Less than $2?
A guess of the price of ethanol made from hemp biomass would be less than $2 or certainly $3 per gallon. Since the flowers of the cannabis plant should pay for all the cost 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 percent 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 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.
Again, since most of the profit from the cannabis harvest will come from the flowers, with an additional smaller amount for the fiber and seeds, the rest of the plant would be cost free. Today, the cost of a ton of competing biomass is over $30, this would add at least another $100 of potential profit per acre for the farmer. Therefore, adding a $1 per gallon for the remaining stalk of the plant seems reasonable to pay the farmers even a little bit more money to care for the this process and have money left over to pay any hidden cost.
Even without utilizing the glands of the flowers to make hash, cannabis should be cheaper to produce than corn. Using the trichromes for society would lower the cost of the left over cannabis biomass to less than zero. Therefore a good guestimation, one can reasonably expect a gallon of hemp gasoline to be under $2.
Hash will cover the costs – How many pounds of hashish per acre?
Whatever numbers any person plugs into the mathematical equation â€“ the flowers glands or trichromes 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, prepared by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 1915. The USDA estimates a farmer can expect to yield “400 to 500 pounds of dried tops per acre”. 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) 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 would be a$200 a pound. If there was a yield of 50 pounds, then the costs 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 value 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 is the point. The exact yield or gallon of fuel per acre is not as important as the knowledge that the prohibition of cannabis and the high prices we pay for the nugs of this plant are also costing us all one of the best sources of energy. The elasticity of the prices of hash, buds and biomass tons of cannabis, when industrialized on a huge multi-million acre scale is bound to have dramatic consequence. 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 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 market place, nothing can compete with cannabis.
Cannabis Energy â€“ Natureâ€™s Power Plant – The Final Solution
Cannabis is the planet 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 of importing energy, the higher the price of energy, the more we all are 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. The former CIA director James Woolsey wrote in a Wall Street Journal article years ago, 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€
The final solution to the many problems in the world is to utilize cannabisâ€™s power completely. Even without utilizing the glands of the flowers (trichromes), cannabis is an economically viable crop. When one factors in the part with highest value, the glands of the flowers, there is no comparison.
We do not need gamble with the risks of nuclear energy catastrophes and the world wars for petroleum, when we can smoke cheap trichromes (at pennies per gram) and be left with environmental friendly farms, employ thousands locally, energy independence and receive power that is next to free (probably the government could collect some end user taxes to discourage waste). Maybe farmers will be able to pay their taxes in cannabis like people could when the Americas where founded. We could reduce government spending (right now we pay farmers not to grow).
Think about how much we spend in California on cannabis right now, every year; 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 buy to 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 by-product would be at 70 million pounds of hash (at the low figure of 10 lbs per acre). Again, this would not necessarily meet all our energy needs, but would be a key (x) factor in transitioning the world off 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.