Why Replacing Natural Gas With Hemp-Derived Methanol Is A Great Idea


On February 29 I was browsing through CNN.com and I came across an article titled “How a billionaire fills gas tank for $1 a gallon.” Below is an excerpt from that article:

Gasoline at $4 a gallon is no worry for T. Boone Pickens, the billionaire energy investor from Texas. He drives from his home to his office in a car that runs on fuel costing less than $1 a gallon.

His method: He has a device that fuels his Honda Civic GX with natural gas from the pipes that serve his home. And he thinks there’s a lesson there for America’s energy woes.

Pickens, who is speaking Wednesday at the TED2012 Conference in Long Beach, California, said America needs to make natural gas a building block of a plan for ending oil imports from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

Natural gas is “cheaper, it’s cleaner, it’s abundant and it’s ours, and we’re fools not to use it,” Pickens said in an interview with CNN.

Pickens, an 83-year-old trained geologist who has been working in the energy field since 1951, said the United States could use domestic resources to replace the 5 million barrels of oil imported daily from OPEC, which makes up a quarter of America’s daily use of oil. The U.S. natural gas reserves amount to the equivalent of three times the oil reserves possessed by Saudi Arabia, he said.

“All you need now is leadership,” he said, lamenting that America “has no plan, we’ve gone 40 years with no energy plan. We’re the largest user of oil in the world.”

Pickens’ plan is encapsulated in the Natural Gas Act, a bill with Democratic and Republican sponsors, that would provide tax credits to replace diesel-fuel burning truck engines with natural gas-powered engines; users of natural gas as a transportation fuel would pay fees that would make up for the lost government revenue.

His firm, BP Capital, has a vested interest in energy policy since it invests in energy futures and the shares of firms in a variety of parts of the industry.

Now, here is why I have a problem with this. First of all, the process of extracting the natural gas can be harmful to health and environment.

“The practice of hydraulic fracturing, the process of using a combination of chemicals ranging from harmless to toxic to force natural gas to the surface from reservoirs with low permeability, has come under scrutiny internationally due to concerns about environmental and health safety, and has been suspended or banned in some countries.” (Wikipedia)

“The most direct connection is if fracking fluids are injected directly into rock formations that also serve as freshwater aquifers and underground sources of drinking water. According to EPA, there are coalbed methane formations that undergo hydraulic fracturing, but also serve as freshwater aquifers.

  1. Fracking chemicals have the potential to migrate, as liquids or gases, from leaky wellbores into adjacent groundwater aquifers. There is the possibility for migration may occur, as well, through vertical and horizontal fractures into groundwater or even to surface water.
  2. Even if the fracking chemicals, themselves, do not migrate into groundwater, the hydraulic fracturing operation may change the underground geology in such a way that new pathways are formed that allow hydrocarbons such as methane, and benzene, to migrate away from their original location. Fracturing, which causes mini-seismic events under ground, may also introduce more sediment into groundwater aquifers, changing the water quality temporarily, or possibly permanently.
  3. A final pathway for contamination is if fracking fluids are spilled onto the ground or into waterways. Spills may be of unused fracking chemicals, or used fracking fluids that flow back out of the well after it has been hydraulically fractures. Any volatile compounds in spilled fracking fluids may enter the air and be carried downwind. (earthworksaction.org)

Second, natural gas (derived from fracking) is NOT a renewable resource.

Third, doesn’t the sound of ‘investing in energy futures’ bring to mind the Rockefellers and Standard Oil? (And their monopoly and price gouging, AND the fact that the stock market is the main reason for high fossil fuel prices?)

So, what is the alternative?

Hemp-derived methanol. Hemp is 77% cellulose, which is the main component for fuel. Methanol from hemp is clean, renewable, and does not require large amounts of dangerous chemicals to process.

If hemp were grown in the U.S. using 6% of farmland, we could remove our dependency on foreign oil, fossil fuels, and natural gas. To me, this is ideal, since natural gas fracking is harmful to the environment, and the health of populations nearby.

Industrial hemp methanol would be an inexpensive, healthy alternative – giving us freedom from using hydrocarbon fuels and replacing them with healthy carbohydrate fuels.

There are some commercial kitchens/stoves that can use methanol without upgrading the equipment; I would love to see a household version – a gas stove that uses hemp methanol. It’s the best of both worlds – clean, efficient, inexpensive energy…and a renewable one at that.

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