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.
“There’s enough alcohol in one year’s yeild of an acre of potatoes to drive the machinery necessary to cultivate the fields for one hundred years.” – Henry Ford
Pioneering automotive engineer Henry Ford held many patents on automotive mechanisms, but is best remembered for helping devise the factory assembly approach to production that revolutionized the auto industry by greatly reducing the time required to assemble a car.
Born in Wayne County, Michigan, Ford showed an early interest in mechanics, constructing his first steam engine at the age of 15. In 1893 he built his first internal combustion engine, a small one-cylinder gasoline model, and in 1896 he built his first automobile.
In June 1903 Ford helped establish Ford Motor Company. He served as president of the company from 1906 to 1919 and from 1943 to 1945.
In addition to earning numerous patents on auto mechanisms, Ford served as a vice president of the Society of Automotive Engineers when it was founded in 1905 to standardize U.S. automotive parts. 1
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…
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 widely cultivated.
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”.
HEMP FOR FUEL
Corn, tree pulp and hemp are sources for clean-burning alcohol, ethanol and methane gas. These ‘biofuels’ contain no sulfur, the pollutant that causes acid rain. Growing the fuel also produces oxygen, to balance the oxygen consumed during combustion. Engines stay cleaner and the air remains much cleaner.
Hemp may be the most profitable and productive fuel crop that can be grown in many areas of America. Hemp can produce about 1000 gallons of methanol per acre, four times as much as can be produced from trees. Fuel can be produced locally, reducing transportation costs. The production process, called biomass conversion, is safe and clean. It would create a domestic fuel industry, freeing us from Middle East oil dependency, providing jobs and keeping our currency at home.
Hemp fuel needs no taxpayer subsidies, as oil receives. The Department of Energy estimated that fuel could be produced from hemp for about 60 cents per gallon. In New South Wales, Australia the Minister of Energy told the parliament they should consider burning confiscated hemp to produce electricity. “It burns at extremely high temperature, produces a lot of power and is cheaper (and much cleaner) to burn than coal.”
Hemp was the subject of a 1991 conference held in Wisconsin. One speaker pointed out our government spends $26 billion each year to pay farmers not to cultivate their land. Instead of this waste of taxpayer money, farmers could grow hemp or other fuel crops. This could completely end our dependence on foreign oil.
- A bio-diesel fuel is one made from hemp oil, vegetable oil, or other animal fat. The original idea wax developed in 1895 by Dr. Rudolph Diesel, who developed the first engine than ran on vegetable oil. He demonstrated the engine at the 1900 World Exhibition in Paris, France, running the engine on peanut oil.
- Hemp can be blended with diesel fuel in any ratio or used alone.
- Biodiesel fuel is the only alternative fuel that can be used as-is, in any un-modified diesel engine.
- The increased use of biodiesel fuels would reduce dependence on foreign sources while increasing national agricultural jobs and revenues.
- The flashpoint of petroleum fuel is 125 degrees Fahrenheit while the flashpoint of biodiesel fuels is 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Biodiesel fuels have been used successfully in Europe for over 20 years.