Source: The Leaf Online
Hemp has been reported to have some of the most diverse uses out of any plant currently known. One new use for hemp is as a raw material for biofuels, namely as cellulosic ethanol, which unlike other methods of making biofuels, uses a plant’s cellulose instead of the oil or sugar it contains to produce a fuel. While corn-based ethanol has been shown to be no better for the environment than burning fossil fuels, cellulosic ethanol is much closer to being carbon-neutral. Cellulose is what forms the structure of green plants, everything from grass to trees. Professor George Huber, at the University of Wisconsin,
has found a way to convert the cellulose from the non-usable parts of plants, such as yard waste, compost scraps, or wood debris into ethanol and other bio-oils. “The goal of the Huber research group is to develop the clean technology that will allow us to economically use our biomass and other sustainable resources for the production of cheap renewable gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel, and chemicals.”
Professor Huber’s work is revolutionary because it will allow cities to turn a large portion of their garbage into fuel that can power buses and other city vehicles. Clearly, waste material alone will not be enough to switch our current fossil fuel economy to a grassoline economy, which is where hemp comes in. Hemp is ideal as a fuel-stock for cellulosic ethanol for several reasons. Hemp has an exceptionally high cellulose content, it grows very quickly allowing for multiple harvests per year, it can be grown in nearly all climates, it is drought resistant, frost resistant, pest resistant, and unlike other fuel-stocks like switchgrass, hemp has edible seeds which can be harvested allowing for two harvests from one crop. While switchgrass may grow quickly like hemp, it’s cellulose content is roughly half that of hemp, which has a higher cellulose content than wood.