It was midday on February 10, 2013, and I was very smoothly cruising south out of Denver, Colorado, in a hemp-powered limo. A sleek cream-colored 1979 Mercedes 300D, in fact, purportedly originally owned by Ferdinand Marcos.
“Plenty of space,” the driver told me as when I asked for the keys to the trunk before the drive. “Imelda’s shoes aren’t in there any more.”
Hemp oil was the fuel, but it’s not the kind of thing that I, the pampered passenger, would notice if I weren’t a cannabis journalist. The vehicle was equipped with a proprietary shock system that results in the sort of sensory experience I normally associate with water beds. The giant back seat (more of a back room) sofa—, indeed, all the seats—, were was covered in sheepskin. There was room enough for me to do my morning yoga back there.
Regardless of the unbelievably comfortable ride’s lineage, Bill Althouse, the chauffeur, was trying to demonstrate something on this enjoyable winter outing to Colorado Springs. What the longtime sustainability consultant and renewable energy engineer was showing is that today, in 2013, a plant cultivated by humans for eight millennia can replace petroleum.
In this same year, 2013 is a year during which, is a year during which [DF1] we same humans will no doubt surpass 2010’s consumption of 37.7 billion barrels of oil—that’s 87 million barrels a day, or a million barrels a second.27
It wasn’t proving my least eventful road trip ever. We noticed before we hit Castle Rock that we’d slightly miscalculated the distance for our planned spine-o’-the-Rockies drive this day. But, with a few roadside top-offs, we pulled it off on fumes thanks to the excellent 22 twenty-two MPG we got on hemp biodiesel running through a big, old engine engineered for dictator spinal comfort, not for efficiency.
We wound up using seven gallons of hemp oil for our ride. The U.S. government says that petro diesel spews 22.38 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere per gallon. That means, since the statistics folks at the Energy Information Agency also say biodiesel releases 78 percent% less carbon, that in this short road trip we prevented 122 pounds of carbon from, ya know, clouding the future of our species. And we didn’t give a penny to ExxonMobil.
For reasons of scale alone, seed oil might not immediately prove the ideal part of the plant for exploiting hemp’s energy potential, according to Althouse. For one thing which is to say, it’d take an awful lot of hemp acreage to prove cost- competitive at the pump. Sure beats fossil diesel, though, in odor alone. The exhaust smelled organic. Like all vegetable- oil-based fuel, it made one hungry.28 Ran quieter and more efficiently, too, Althouse said.