Hemp, the No. 1 producer of biomass per acre in the world, is a clean alternative energy source that can help end our global dependence on fossil fuels. Biofuel expert Lynn Osburn estimates that 1.5 to 3.5 million acres of hemp could replace fossil fuel demands, and it can do so without making farmers choose between food and fuel. Unlike biodiesel fuels made from soybeans, olives and peanuts, farmers who grow hemp for its fibers can still use its natural oils for fuel, and after extracting the oil, the remaining seed cake is a source of nutrition that is second only to soya bean in protein content.
Speaking of fibers, hemp can also help save our forests. A single acre of hemp produces as much pulp for paper as 4.1 acres of trees over a 20-year period, and the U.S.D.A. suggests hemp could replace 40 to 70 percent of all tree pulp used for paper production. The process of making hemp paper is also cleaner, significantly cheaper and produces a tree-saving product that is stronger and nearly three times as recyclable.
In addition to paper, hemp produces the world's most durable natural soft fiber, and an acre of hemp can produce 2 to 3 times as much fiber as an acre of cotton crops with the use of significantly less water and agricultural pesticides. Hemp seed has 34 percent more oil content than any other seed, and its oil is second only to whale oils in its quality. In fact, hemp oil has the same burning qualities and viscosity as No. 2 grade heating oil (i.e., the cleanest and most expensive) without any of the sulphur-based pollutants. "If someone is already growing hemp," wrote UConn professor Richard Parnas, "they might be able to produce enough fuel to power their whole farm with the oil from the seeds they produce." In other words, the same hemp plant used to make paper, fabrics and food can also provide the fuel to power the entire process.