Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Future of Hemp-Part 3 of 3

Having learned a great deal about the history and the current status of hemp production, we asked Summer about the future of hemp both in the U.S. and worldwide. As a textile manufacturer, the answer we received from her was a bit of a surprise. Although the U.S. was once one of the major textile manufacturers in the world, most of those mills have now shut down, and the jobs have gone overseas. While many of us would like to see those jobs come back, from Envirotextiles perspective, they believe that each region of the world should focus on the production of hemp products that best fit the infrastructure they either already have in place, or that can be readily converted to use hemp as a raw material. As many of the textile mills in this country are not only shut down, their looms and other machinery have also been sold off or scrapped as well. The machines that do remain would require significant retooling to make them suitable for hemp.

Other countries such as China, Romania, and Mexico are already producing textiles, and this is providing jobs in those countries. In other parts of Europe, there is significant production of rope and twine, and in Canada, they industry has focused on seed and seed oil production. Australia has begun a commitment to become a leader in hemp composites and plastics. As we look to the future and consider a worldwide economy, it only makes sense to preserve the jobs we have in some areas and to create new ones in others.

According to Summer, this leaves the U.S. with a golden opportunity to create jobs and fill a missing gap in the worldwide hemp product assortment. With the infrastructure already in place to produce paper, particle board and other composite construction materials, and with many of these factories sitting idle and requiring little tooling to switch to hemp, the U.S. could rapidly become a world leader as of supplier of hemp building materials. This would create a vast array of jobs, for farmers, workers in the mills, manufacturing the machinery needed for production, worldwide distribution of the materials and much, much more. It would also allow us to preserve the slow growing forests that we need to so desperately to help in the fight against global warming, in favor of the rapidly renewable and ecologically friendly production of hemp.

The other clearly obvious use for hemp as a renewable resource is as a source for fuel. Hemp is the number one biomass producer on the planet, producing up to 10 tons per acre in just 4 months. Here again the opportunity to create jobs and replace fossil fuels’ is just crying for attention. Instead we spend 3 billion dollars on the “Cash for Clunkers”. A program designed to support an archaic auto industry that deserves to die for failing to research and develop sustainable fuel alternatives and high mileage vehicles despite the clear knowledge that fossil fuels are a finite resource and well on their way to being depleted.

Paper, textiles, fuel, food, plastics, the list goes on and on. And the list itself is the reason for hemps “seedy” reputation. Take my word for this, and I have some experience from dealing with the companies that are responsible for the insanity that soy and corn production has become, the minute that big agriculture figures out a way to control hemp production, it will be legal in a minute, but right now these companies have all their eggs in soy, corn and petroleum.

Once again, I urge you to learn more and do more to make hemp a huge part of a sustainable future.

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