If you’re driving on the interstate this summer and you smell a strange odor don’t worry, you’re not having a flashback and that isn’t a “doobie” you smell, it’s Hemp Car. The exhaust won’t “catch you a buzz” but the car is creating one among hemp activists and environmentalists. It’s a car powered by hemp seed oil and it will be touring the country to promote drug-law reform and environmental fuel technologies. Amy Wells, Grayson Sigler, and Kellie Ogilvie created the project to demonstrate the utility of hemp to car crazy Americans. They are embarking on a 10,000 mile journey around the continent beginning in Washington D.C. on July 4, 2001. “We’ve been pleasantly surprised by the attention the car is getting,” says Wells. “The website is starting to take off and we’re getting a lot of support from the hemp industry.”
The hemp movement has been gaining ground in fits and starts. Since Canada legalized production of industrial hemp, entrepreneurial Americans have created a $100 million per year industry manufacturing hemp products. Americans can now buy hemp paper, clothes, bags, shoes, and even hemp “tofu”. However, the DEA hasn’t exactly looked on all of this with magnanimity. Just last year the DEA instructed U.S. customs to seize a shipment of sterilized hemp birdseed from Canada, apparently in the “interest” of national security.
Currently, hemp fuels are not one of the hemp industry’s products. There is not enough hemp being grown to make hemp fuels a profitable industry. “If hemp were legal to grow in the U.S., technologies such as pyrolysis would make hemp fuels economically competitive with petrol fuels,” says Sigler. “The emissions associated with the use of hemp fuels are far less toxic than for fossil fuels, and hemp helps remediate global warming by absorbing CO2 from the air while it is growing.”
Hemp and other plant based fuels are not a new idea. Prior to prohibition in 1937, hemp had been humankinds’ fuel and fiber mainstay. “Hemp fuels have been used for over 10,000 years,” says Ogilvie. “Evidence suggests that hemp prohibition was foisted on us by an industrial cabal who were intent on dominating the emerging fuel and fiber markets. There is no reasonable argument for the prohibition of hemp.” The use of biological engine fuels is gaining momentum in this country. Recently Joshua and Kaia Tickell made national headlines with the “Veggie Van”, a fryer-grease powered Winnebago that logged over 25,000 miles promoting the “biodiesel” concept in the U.S. With so many plant oils that could be used for fuel, why hemp? “Hemp has been shown to be our number one renewable resource,” says Wells. “Hemp out-produces virtually every other biomass crop that can be widely grown. Most of America’s energy needs could be met if hemp were grown for fuel on the land used to grow grain for cattle.”
So, can we look forward to filling up our tanks with hemp oil? “Not in the next decade,” says Sigler. “Prohibition has made hemp oil quite expensive, and the glut of petroleum fuels exacerbates the problem.” All of that may change though, as many estimates predict that fossil fuel reserves may be depleted in as little as twenty years. “All of the research needed to implement these environmental fuels has been done, what’s needed now is consumer demand,” says Wells. “We need to educate the public and develop an infrastructure that begins with farmers and ends at the fuel tank.” Considering the American farm crisis and our dependence on foreign oil, one thing is for sure, this is a car you’ll want to get behind.
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