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Hemp powered vehicles

Posted in Alt Fuels, Biofuel by David | May 18th, 2008 | 50 Responses |

Hemp is a controversial material, part of the famous family of plants known as Cannabis Sativa. Hemp grown for industrial use is very low in THC the psychoactive chemical in its famous sister marijuana thus making industrial hemp useless as a drug.

Ironically, Hemp powered cars was the dream of both Henry Ford and Rudolf Diesel. However, gasoline powered engines became so cheap to manufacturer and were easy to maintain so they caught on in the automotive industry even though the pioneers had other dreams.

Now that we’ve nearly liquidated the world’s oil reserves we should take a look back at the pioneers of the automotive industry’s original ideas.



Hemp was a mainstream crop in the United States

From 1776 to 1937, hemp was a major American crop and textiles made from hemp were common. Yet, The American Textile Museum, The Smithsonian Institute, and most American history books contain no mention of hemp. The government’s War on Marijuana Smokers has created an atmosphere of self censorship–speaking of hemp in a positive manner is considered taboo.

Hemp is ridiculously easy to produce, is a major source of ethanol that would allow the use to curb food shortages as a result of Corn and Grain Farmers being asked to sell their grain to ethanol manufacturers.

Hemp should be legalized since its a much faster source of ethanol in that it can be harvested in 120 days after it has been planted with much larger crops. It’s also a great alternative when manufactured as biodiesel.

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50 Responses

  1. Brad says:

    Not allowing Hemp because of the oh-so-bad Marijuana is like saying we shouldn’t have Gasoline because it can start fires. Its all in how you use it.

  2. Just smoke the hemp, and you can fly there yourself, or at least feel like it while plunging to your death…

    Yes, we have heard hemp can do anything, im for nuclear power and electric vehicles, thats the only thing that can sustain our use, anything that uses farm land for uses other than food is inefficient and reduces the food we can grow, so no go.

    • Dumbassedness says:

      Dud are you stupid guy? Did you not read the article or something? one you cant get high off smoking hemp, two you can use it for food, 3rd there is plenty of open space to grow hemp including abandoned buildings where you can introduce hydroponic systems for growth.

      People like you should be banned from talking cause your detrimental to the growth of society.

  3. Common Sense says:

    What do I think?

    I think neednewbed.com is an idiot.

  4. ATL says:

    I agree that we need to use good fertile land to grow food, but Hemp can grow anywhere, and under soil conditions that would not be appropriate for food crops. You should read the history of cannabis/hemp, do you know that 1 acre of cannabis equals 4.1 acres of trees, and is super sustainable as you get annual crops. The first model T was built by biodegradable plastic panels (ya biodegradable plastic)made from cannabis, and that our first flag as well as the Declaration of Independence were made from Cannabis. All these facts can also be validated from Encyclopedia Brittanica, which itself has printed on paper made from cannabis for over 150 years.

  5. Adam says:

    neednewbed.com’s statement “anything that uses farm land for uses other than food is inefficient and reduces the food we can grow, so no go” is simplistic to the point of being dangerous and more than a little daft.

    Absolutely, as Americans, let’s hold ourselves up to the efficiency bar and see how we measure up. When I look at the US Government funding corn production for “economic” reasons despite the fact that the free market has determined it’s value to be far less than what the farmer receives it makes you question the efficiency. Or how about the fact that the good old US of A wastes 27% of the edible food we buy each year. http://www.boingboing.net/2008/05/18/us-wastes-27-of-food.html

    There are many good uses for farm land besides food. Medicines, textiles, building materials and key electronic components are all produced on “farm land”, why not an alternative fuel source?

    What happened to this country? We used to be innovative. Granted, we always had our problems and our history was never as bright and shiny as the redacted history books would indicate, but at least we were a pack leader. Now we’ve been castrated by the blind stupidity of the poorly educated and the greed of the people who exploit them to maintain wealth and control.

    I’d move, but we’re fucking up the world’s resources and economy so bad there isn’t anywhere to hide. Besides, the 4th of July is right around the corner and I’d hate to miss the fireworks.

  6. Jaap says:

    It’s a go, not necessarily for bio fuel but for other uses as body panels (cars), paper etc. Hemp is one of the most economical plants in existence with a lot of uses.

  7. ATL says:

    I agree that we need to use good fertile land to grow food, but Hemp can grow anywhere, and under soil conditions that would not be appropriate for food crops. You should read the history of cannabis/hemp, do you know that 1 acre of cannabis equals 4.1 acres of trees, and is super sustainable as you get annual crops. The first model T was built by biodegradable plastic panels (ya biodegradable plastic)made from cannabis, and that our first flag as well as the Declaration of Independence were made from Cannabis. All these facts can also be validated from Encyclopedia Britannica, which itself has printed on paper made from cannabis for over 150 years.

  8. Bahamut says:

    If hemp ever becomes a strong market you can be sure the corn farmers will be switching over so completely, there will probably be a shortage of corn. This is great because then we can finally do away with the crap called High Fructose Corn Syrup which recently cost more than sugar.

  9. curly says:


    are you kidding me?

    “anything that uses farm land for uses other than food is inefficient and reduces the food we can grow, so no go.”

    you do realize that corn and grain are being used for ethanol, don’t you? that’s a complete waste of food since hemp is much more efficient for ethanol use.

    and for crying out loud, did you even read the articel?? don’t you know anything about hemp??

    “Just smoke the hemp, and you can fly there yourself,”


  10. steve says:

    to Neednewbed.com:

    It is not an either/or proposition. You are using the land for two purposes, at different times.

    When growing any types of foods or grains, the most efficient way to farm is to let a portion of the fields go fallow and rotate the crops, so the primary crop does not deplete the soil. The rise of large monoculture farming, heavily dependent upon petroleum based fertilizers and pesticides was a direct result of the collapse of the farming industry during the great depression (dustbowl) and the availability of cheap petroleum.

    Hemp is a sustainable crop as it is essentially a weed that is extremely drought tolerant. A weed that will grow in virtually any soil without the use of chemical pesticides or toxic fertilizers. It is among the earth’s primary renewable resources. Hemp can be used for cloth production, producing a cloth like canvas or linen. Hemp can be used to produce paper for newsprint and other pulp papers, as well as be used to make Ethanol. Hemp also produces three times as much fiber per acre as cotton,and can produce as much fiber in 120 days as a small forest can grow in 40 years. The residue rom the harvest (the root structure and the stems) stay in the soil, and break down to useable nutrients for the food crops.

    These facts make Hemp an excellent fallow crop for land that has previously suffered from overuse, as a barrier crop for windbreaks, and as a crop to help with erosion issues.

    Using the “Hemp = Marijuana” logic is absurd. Do we tax, regulate and restrict the growing of barley, rye, wheat and corn as controlled substances because they are used to produce beer and distilled alcohohol? Do we tax and regulate apples as controlled substances because they can be fermented into cider? Hemp is the MALE cannabis plant, where Marijuana is the FEMALE plant. The psychoactive components of Marijuana are concentrated in the resins found on the flower bodies of the female plants.

    You state that you prefer nuclear energy. Nuclear energy is a good option for the logevity of electricity produced, but currently the reprocessing of high level nuclear waste is illegal in the United States, so our nuclear plants fail to extract about 80% of the available heat energy contained in the fuel. Also, the cost of building a nuclear plant is in the hundreds of millions to billions of dollars, and can only be achieved through great taxpayer expense in the form of subsidies and incentives. The Return on Investment for nuclear plant is in terms of decades, whereas ethanol production has a return on invesment in terms of years.

    Running “all electric” cars are still years away from mass production given the required advances in battery or high discharge capacitor technology. Internal combustion engines/hybrids running on Ethanol are here today.

  11. So neednewbed, you don’t wear any clothes made out of cotton?

  12. H says:

    maybe if you americans didn’t eat so much, we could use that land in a useful way (f.e. for hemp)

  13. nik says:

    neednewbed.com = PWNED by the facts..

  14. WesDenton says:

    Instead of one or the other we should have a choice of many different kinds of fuels and fuel sources. I’m for nuclear power too with electric powered cars but it is going to take a long time to build that infrastructure. We certainly have the agricultural resources to start growing hemp now for industrial use.

  15. anonymous says:


  16. Angry Patriot says:

    Thinking of another fluid to burn in our cars is ignoring the true problem. In terms of scale, we on this planet are using a river of oil larger than the Amazon that is basically had for the cost of pumping it out of the ground, minus around 10 – 20% for the cost of refining and transport. Finding another fluid to burn isn’t about to work. We will not have a hydrogen based civilization, or free our selves from the political clutches of the oil men in time to avoid social upheaval. I say turn our corn into bourbon, we’re going to need it!

  17. Even more efficient than hemp (male cananbis plants) would be to use the female plant… which can grow to be 17-24 feet and 20+ lbs a piece, which in turn could ALL be turned into bio-diesel or ethanol, in addition to all of the above stated benefits.

    YAH YAH Marijuana is illegal, well there is a pretty easy way to fix that…

  18. Jared Lorz says:

    It’s somewhat silly to outlaw hemp considering you would have to probably burn an entire field of the stuff to have any effect.

    I find it ironic the DEA raids the old Navy Hemp yards from world war II and claims they’re stopping marijuana growers.

  19. The full story of hemp is fascinating. It’s as if we were put on a challenging planet with one reliable resource to meet the challenges: hemp.

  20. notbeinfringed says:

    What you imbeciles don;t understand is that hemp is not only a good source for ethanol, it’s seeds ARE a superfood, it’s not only food but it’s medicine as well. Don’t need to believe me, look it up.

    It’s literally a weed, requires no watering, no insecticides, has no natural predators (insects), the fiber left after ethanol production can be made into cloth this is naturally anti-microbial and it’s seeds can be eaten.

    It’s the perfect crop in many ways.

  21. Ribbit Ribbbit says:

    “Hemp is ridiculously easy to produce, is a major source of ethanol that would allow the use to curb food shortages as a result of Corn and Grain Farmers being asked to sell their grain to ethanol manufacturers.”

    Really? Can you produce a citation for existing methods of producing ethanol from help? Cellulosic ethanol is an important goal, but the technology is not here yet. And switchgrass, not hemp, is generally recognized as the best feedstock.

  22. Marc says:

    Allowing hemps to be grown for the production of textiles, paper, fuel, food, construction materials, medicine and other useful things should be a no-brainer. Unfortunately, many politicians have built careers on pandering to irrational phobias and ignorance. They usually offer prohibitions and/or a police state as solutions to non-existent problems. The wars on terror(ism) and (some) drugs are two examples. As a result the state grows as our freedoms, choices, and wallets are diminished. Additionally, profitable new industries and employers capable of thriving without taxpayer subsidies never come into existence.

  23. Ben says:

    This isn’t about defending hemp. It’s about attacking the government’s ban on plants. Who cares if people smoke it! The Drug War is vastly unconstitutional.

  24. Abel says:


    High fructose corn syrup is used because it is cheaper. It is cheaper not only because of the ridiculous corn subsidies given away by the US government, but also because of high import tariffs levied by the US government on cane sugar.

    Ethanol is the same way. The US government subsidizes corn production for ethanol but heavily taxes manufactured ethanol made in Brazil from cane sugar. Corn is a horribly inefficient source for ethanol. Corn ethanol wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for government intervention.

    Theres also something in there about corn ethanol driving the price of grain-fed beef up as it diverts corn toward inefficient fuel production and away from animal feed. There’s also the case to be made that corn subsidies drive the use of farm land away from more environmentally friendly or less labor, fertilizer, and pesticide intensive grains that don’t receive subsidies.

    And I didn’t even get to hemp.

  25. overthair says:

    “Now that we’ve nearly liquidated the world’s oil reserves…” Au contre!


  26. Johnny Burner says:

    you can grow enough weed in your yard (using a “tee pee garden”) and easily clean burn it in a low pressure engine to generate ALL the electricity you use. THAT is why weed is illegal. It has nothing to do with minorities getting high. It is all about Exxon getting rich. What is a “tee pee” garden? Imagine a 200 foot pole in the middle of your property. Lines run up the pole with hanging basket hydroponic planters. Its like a huge upside down ice cream cone “tee pee”. As added benefits, the tee pee of potted plants shades your home. The problem is, that you can sell the crop to minorities and make enough money to buy 10 houses and electricity for 1000.

  27. Darel says:

    The people always confuse Hemp with drugs. I have been a member of the GOP for over 20 years and for sure the topic is taboo but we need to revisit this issue. My grandmother had major ocular issues. Just over 15 years ago she was part of a test study for the use of medical pot and her pain and ability to cope with her condition was said to improve by 80%. Her life was better having completed the study. When she returned to VA she tried to obtain consent from the local police for use as medical improvement but she was denied. Years later her health declined and just two years ago she passed away. I will never forget my grandma and the fact she deserved threatment.

    Prior to my grandma’s testing and while WWII had began my grandpa was put in charge of making rope for the Army. Hemp was the core product used to make the rope.

    As far as using Hemp as a fuel source I must admit I have not studied the subject but after following world markets for ethanol and the use of corn it would appear that the use of hemp could be a replacement and help restore a correction in the market for all things related to fuel.

  28. RW says:

    Raw materials are the only source of new wealth. Whether it be hemp,gas , coal, oil, timber, corn, etc. Those in control will do what they can to control and meter it out for maximum profit. Consider that taxes are not necessary since the banking system can create as much or little credit/currency as necessary. Taxes are needed to restrict our consumption. Read Thomas Gold’s book (The deep hot biosphere). It seems that oil and gas are renewable resources from below the crust. Yes, this flies in the face of Peak oil. Yes the use of hemp is a wise and efficient action, as is allowing open access to energy for all.

  29. Aileen says:

    Another great and very timely article, David! This site just gets better and better… ยง;o)

  30. Sasha says:

    “Can you produce a citation for existing methods of producing ethanol from help?”

    You know, a citation for this isn’t really necessary. The market will provide the citation based on the success or failure of sellable products, if entrepreneurs are given the freedom to take the risks upon themselves to find out. The basis of American prosperity which we used to widely enjoy was one of the freest markets in the world. Any imposition on this free market throttles prosperity. That includes drug prohibition.

    Once the government prohibits one thing because it’s bad for you, they will start to prohibit all sorts of other things and strangle the free market more and more. During the last last 50 years since the prohibition mindset has taken over, people have become more and more used to government regulating more and more minutae of life.

    Of course many factors play into it, but it is interesting that since the War on Drugs began 35 or so years ago, there have been no real gains in inflation adjusted GDP per capita for the average American.

  31. Sasha says:

    Remember, soon before it was outlawed, Hemp was projected to be America’s first Billion dollar crop (back in the 30s, this was an astronomical sum).

    The economic costs of drug prohibition to America are staggering. Not to mention that it hasn’t actually caused people to use less drugs…

  32. Ned says:

    As long as this country is run by mega-corporations this is a no-go.

    Hemp seeds can be used for food and the oil can run diesel engines.

    It’s just that about anyone can grow it just about anywhere. And hemp has a much less negative impact on the environment than cotton. Hemp fibers make better paper.

    But with gasoline heading for 4 bux a gallon, you can be sure that the energy company lobbies with quash this effort with as much fervor as they did when the first narcotics acts were enacted.

  33. Sasha says:

    Hey, don’t mean to be triple posting, but seeing how “neednewbed.com’s” handle points to a shady little ring of bogus sites obviously designed to get google adwords money that has nothing to do with cars, he can be counted as a spammer and a troll.

    So, then, at least this unscientific poll board can be counted as 100% pro-hemp.

    Which, along with a million other indications, points to our government’s strict prohibition policies as being a good example of a fundamental failure of American democracy.

  34. Chuck U Farley says:

    10 tons of biomass per acre equals 10 times more production of fuel than corn can produce.

  35. Visionaerie says:

    Hemp is clearly the answer — the chief obstacle is the petro-chemical-pharmaceutical complex, which has caused more deaths with its synthetic “medicines” than all the wars of history. The Founders urged the growing of hemp for its multitude of uses — from food to fiber and energy. It’s extraordinarily productive and requires no pesticides or other chemicals. Plus look at all the health uses! Hemp seed oil contains the optimal balance of Omega-3 / Omega-6 oils, and marijuana is therapeutic for a variety of diseases — cancer, glaucoma, MS, and general pain. Its growth would also lead to greater economic growth, and you can even use it for interior car parts, as Henry Ford did. Let’s legalize and spread the ultimate crop and overthrow the mega-chemical killers!!

  36. Patrick says:

    Why not get the farmers with their “lay-land” to grow more of everything?? Or, would that be to difficult?? (Lay-land is a term from the 50’s & 60’s when the gov’t. would PAY farmers for NOT, yes, NOT growing crops). That would help with the food shortages world-wide. Then, we could sell our food to the other nations and maybe, just maybe the scales would start tipping in our favor. Maybe even get rid of the national debt and get rid the “Federal Reserve Bank”???? Think about it, people! Be nice to have other foreign gov’ts. owing us money rather than us owing them !! ! ! ! ! ! ! Why not bring our own, (U.S.), oil companies “on the carpet” and ask them why so many of our oil wells are not producing and pumping??? Ask them why we have to pay so damned much for gasoline when their executives may hundreds of thousands much less millions of dollars… (Sit on their arse all day; have plush homes, etc, ad infinitum). We have people here in the U.S.A. that go to sleep hungry! Wake up AMERICA! ! ! !
    We must regain our independence! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !

  37. BGBDBILL67 says:

    “So critical was hemp to naval powers that laws were passed in England and in the American colonies requiring farmers to allot a portion of their acreage to the production of hemp”
    ” Following the War of Independence, farmers could pay their taxes in hemp.”
    Hey I like this Idea make every american grow it again!!!We all are in this mess,We all can help do our part to get out….

  38. Sailor says:

    Yep, hemp will go a long way to solve many of our economic problems.

    Vote. Libertarian. If the people keep voting the status quo, nothing will change.

  39. Thin Mr. Jones says:

    The Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper.
    Hemp was a major industry up until the prohibition of the oh-so-dangerous drug of marijuana and the subsequent crackdown.
    Hemp isn’t a drug. It’s a potential fuel source. Our founding fathers understood its uses, and many of them grew it on their own land. Why the sudden backlash, America?

  40. Harry says:

    I’ve seen people talk about using hemp as ethanol. There is another possibility that is easier. Use the hemp oil in a diesel. Gatewood Galbraith and Willie Nelson drove across Kentucky in a hemp powered Mercedes diesel. Go to greasecar.com and you can see a kit to convert to vegetable oil. It talks about using old Mcdonalds grease but hemp oil will work perfectly fine. I believe the info I read says 60% to 80% of the seed is oil. Hemp oil was used in WW2 fighter plans because it had better lubrication properties at higher altitude. A gentleman I worked with was exempt from going to war in WW2 because his family was growing hemp for the war effort. The gevernment allowed it once when it suited them and now they CAN do it again. Diesel manufacture is the way with hemp power.

  41. Maxwell says:

    Anyone got any links to Biomass pellet machines that can take hemp as an input source?? Or what about Biomass generators that can use hemp as a fuel source??

  42. gael says:

    If everyone used hemp in their cars it would take only 6% of the farmland to grow the fuel to run the nation. So many solutions are far off and hemp is here and you can run it on a diesel engine without making any mechanical adjustments.
    Let’s think forward not behind. Diesel engines were designed to run on hemp and peanut oil it is only corruption that held back this natural and intelligent fuel source.

  43. Wendy says:

    re: steve’s comments. That is the most thorough, well thought out, and precise explanation I have ever seen on the hemp issue. If this country doesn’t get into production of hemp our money won’t be worth the hemp paper is used to be printed on!

  44. Bob says:

    “Hemp is the MALE cannabis plant, where Marijuana is the FEMALE plant. The psychoactive components of Marijuana are concentrated in the resins found on the flower bodies of the female plants.” steve.

    This is a misleading statement since its not the sex of the plant that makes difference between marijuana and industrial hemp. Hemp can also be female plant and infact female plant is the one to produce seeds. Hemp and marijuana are actually the same thing BUT hemp is refined to produce no thc or very litle thc and maximize the seed(oil) produce and fiber produce.

  45. Jimmy says:

    How come there isn’t a boom in hemp production with all the money bring printed around the world?

    Hemp was there in the past, is here in the now, and will be there in the future. Whether we wise up to use this plant for everyones benefit or not is looking unlikely. If Carter had been able to get something going with Hemp, a lot of money would have been made for american people and a lot of wars wouldn’t have happened, not to mention the health of people would be incredible.

    It doesn’t matter that a mistake has been made in neglecting hemp, its whether we will learn from the mistake that will make the difference between ruin and prosperity.

  46. […] Fuel Hungry Car Pirates Jack Oil to make BioDiesel, seriously if you are going to do something illegal grow Hemp! […]

  47. troy says:

    Why does everyone think hemp was outlawed as a side effect of marijuana prohibition. I believe the opposite is true.

    Dupont patented Nylon in 1938, a year after Hemp became illegal.

    The reasons marijuana was made illegal; “makes black men look at white men in the eye”; “makes white women want to have intimate relations with blacks”; “makes Mexicans crazy and bloodthirsty”. These are actual quotes used to scare people into going a long with this travesty.

    What has the US gained since prohibition of hemp/weed? Nothing! People who want to smoke weed still do it, they just go to jail for it sometimes which costs the tax payers money.

    What has Dupont gained since the prohibition of hemp?

    What would the oil industry lose if hemp became popular again?

  48. lexisciarra says:

    wow! neednewbed.com is flippin retard! you cant get high off of hemp! duh u shit ass!

  49. I will endorse anything hemp EVEN COP CARS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!