- Henry Ford's first Model-T was built to run on hemp gasoline
and the CAR ITSELF WAS CONSTRUCTED FROM HEMP! On his large estate, Ford
was photographed among his hemp fields. The car, 'grown from the soil,'
had hemp plastic panels whose impact strength was 10 times stronger than
steel; Popular Mechanics, 1941.
- Rudolf Diesel, the inventor of the diesel engine, designed
it to run on vegetable and seed oils like hemp; he actually ran the thing
on peanut oil for the 1900 World's Fair. Henry Ford used hemp to not only
construct cars but also fuel them.
- As an alternative to methanol, hemp has at least one
glowing report: the plant produces up to four times more cellulose per
acre than trees. And a hemp crop grows a little quicker than a forest.
- As for an alternative to petroleum...
- Hemp grows like mad from border to border in America;
so shortages are unlikely. And, unlike petrol, unless we run out of soil,
hemp is renewable.
- Growing and harvesting the stuff has much less environmental
impact than procuring oil.
- Hemp fuel is biodegradable; so oil spills become fertilizer
- Hemp fuel does not contribute to sulfur dioxide air
- Other noxious emissions like carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons
are radically slashed by using "biodiesel.
- Hemp fuel is nontoxic and only a mild skin irritant;
anybody who,s ever cleaned out an old carburetor with gasoline can confirm
the same is not true for petrol.
- Growing hemp for fuel would be a tremendous boon for
American farmers and the agricultural industry, as opposed to people like,
say, the Bush family.
- And that,s why hemp might not go anywhere as a fuel alternative.
Oil interests are big and donate likewise to politicians, and selling a
man on an idea that will cost him more than he,ll benefit requires an amazingly
skilled orator -- or a gun. Unfortunately, unless you,re the federal government,
gunpoint conversions are usually illegal. Ergo, PR is about the best bet
- There are many people working hard on this front, including
the Hemp Car and its intrepid crew. Currently ginning up for a trans-America
evangelism tour, the Hemp Car plans to spread the good word of hemp-fuel
viability at stops in both the U.S. and Canada.
- For whatever good it will do, they should make sure to
stop by Washington, D.C., and have a word with President George W. Bush.
The current oil crisis and our nation,s dependency on sometimes-persnickety
foreign sources might find the new chief executive with an open mind to
fuel sources other than Texas tea -- regardless of his oily bank accounts.
And, while salvaging his dad's legacy is not Goal 1 for Dubya, it might
also help him look more forward thinking in terms of energy policy and
- Of course, hemp fuel may never take off. It might dry
up like all those hemp crops left unattended after the feds banned their
cultivation in the 1930s. One way or the other, Bush should consider freeing
up the market to innovate with alternative fuels like hemp oil -- it couldn,t
hurt, and it stands the chance to help. In so doing, he,ll end his term
with a far better moniker than the "environmental president."
For, if other policy decisions he makes go in a similar direction, we can
perhaps call him the "free-market president."
- Fuel of the Future
- When Henry Ford told a New York Times reporter that ethyl
alcohol was "the fuel of the future" in 1925, he was expressing
an opinion that was widely shared in the automotive industry. "The
fuel of the future is going to come from fruit like that sumach out by
the road, or from apples, weeds, sawdust -- almost anything," he said.
"There is fuel in every bit of vegetable matter that can be fermented.
There's enough alcohol in one year's yield of an acre of potatoes to drive
the machinery necessary to cultivate the fields for a hundred years."
- Ford recognized the utility of the hemp plant. He constructed
a car of resin stiffened hemp fiber, and even ran the car on ethanol made
from hemp. Ford knew that hemp could produce vast economic resources if
- Ford's optimistic appraisal of cellulose and crop based
ethyl alcohol fuel can be read in several ways. First, it can be seen as
an oblique jab at a competitor. General Motors had come to considerable
grief that summer of 1925 over another octane boosting fuel called tetra-ethyl
lead, and government officials had been quietly in touch with Ford engineers
about alternatives to leaded gasoline additives. Secondly, by 1925 the
American farms that Ford loved were facing an economic crisis that would
later intensify with the depression. Although the causes of the crisis
were complex, one possible solution was seen in creating new markets for
farm products. With Ford's financial and political backing, the idea of
opening up industrial markets for farmers would be translated into a broad
movement for scientific research in agriculture that would be labelled
"Farm Chemurgy." 2
- Why Henry's plans were delayed for more than a half century:
- Ethanol has been known as a fuel for many decades. Indeed,
when Henry Ford designed the Model T, it was his expectation that ethanol,
made from renewable biological materials, would be a major automobile fuel.
However, gasoline emerged as the dominant transportation fuel in the early
twentieth century because of the ease of operation of gasoline engines
with the materials then available for engine construction, a growing supply
of cheaper petroleum from oil field discoveries, and intense lobbying by
petroleum companies for the federal government to maintain steep alcohol
taxes. Many bills proposing a National energy program that made use of
Americas vast agricultural resources (for fuel production) were killed
by smear campaigns launched by vested petroleum interests. One noteworthy
claim put forth by petrol companies was that the U.S. government's plans
"robbed taxpayers to make farmers rich".