It’s starting to look like petroleum has had its day. A series of fires at petrochemical facilities early in 2019 highlighted the need to find new solutions that are safer for people and the environment. However, the versatility of petrochemicals makes it hard to end our dependence on them. We rely on petroleum for producing everything from fuel and plastics to textiles and construction materials — in short, petroleum sustains our industrial way of life.
Industrial Hemp Uses that Could Replace Petroleum
Interestingly, industrial hemp uses include many of the same applications of petroleum oil — from textiles and plastics to drywall and biofuel. Hemp — not to be mistaken for marijuana — can also be used to make paper, soap, flooring, and siding. Porsche even used a hemp-based material in the 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport track car.
Environmental and Economic Benefits
As you could probably imagine, taking advantage of industrial hemp’s many uses to create natural, biodegradable, and recyclable products would be a huge boon for the health of the environment as well as for the health of humans. With quality industrial hemp research, we could reduce the almost 8 million metric tons of plastic that enter our oceans annually and provide consumers with cleaner, petrol-free beauty products, for example.
The economic benefits of a hemp-based industry are also difficult to ignore. Bodhi Urban, CRO of HGH Seed, estimates that hemp farmers can make $20,000 to $50,000 per acre — an excellent turnover for budding agriculturalists. While turning over a profit, these same plants work to draw up toxins from the soil — creating cleaner ground that can then be used for producing edible crops.
Obstacles to a Hemp-Based Economy
While industrial hemp uses look great on the surface as a way to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, several key infrastructure hurdles are stopping hemp from becoming a viable alternative. Since hemp cultivation was banned around a century ago, much of the knowledge required to cultivate it has been lost and distribution channels have dried up.
Lawrence Smart, a leading hemp researcher at Cornell University’s School of Integrative Plant Science notes that there needs to be an investment in industrial hemp research and a balancing of production with processing capacity. In his own words, “Growers aren’t going to plant it unless someone is going to buy it.”
The consequence of this lack of breeding programs, gene banks, quality assurance, and industrial hemp research is that the quality and success rate for industrial hemp seeds is variable. In September 2019, there was a $44 million lawsuit in Oregon when seeds failed to perform as advertised. That is a situation we’ll need to prevent if we plan to rely on hemp’s industrial uses in the future.
What You Can Do to Help
If you’re inspired by the industrial uses of hemp, the best thing you can do is to connect with your local legislators and express your support for a solid hemp production framework. You can also purchase clean, third-party lab-tested hemp to support the industry’s positive reputation. Together, we can turn the tide towards high-quality, dependable hemp-based industries.