The Free Green Market Pt. 1: Hemp

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Dear Representative Ocasio-Cortez,

Many have expressed concern with many of your radical proposals outlined in your Green New Deal, in particular, the costs and the effect they may have on the economy. You have argued, on the environmental front, that your proposals are necessary in order to combat the very serious problem of climate change. To your critics you responded in a tweet you posted back near the end of last month, saying:

“Yup. If you don’t like the , then come up with your own ambitious, on-scale proposal to address the global climate crisis. Until then, we’re in charge – and you’re just shouting from the cheap seats.”

I will say that while I don’t care for the tone and language you used, I do agree with you on the main point. It’s always easier to criticize than to come up with ideas and solutions of your own, and it is indeed easy to “shout from the cheap seats” instead of contacting our representatives directly. Because of this, I’ve decided in response to your request, though it may come late, to submit a few of my own proposals and ideas to you. Let me first say that we do at least agree that the U.S should be doing more to address climate change, and indeed we should be more responsible stewards of this planet, especially in considering how our actions will affect future generations. That being said I do not believe your Green New Deal, is the path forward. I would argue instead that what we need is not to expand, but to scale back government involvement.

While Republicans may argue that we should simply “let the free market work” and Democrats argue for more government involvement, neither side seems to acknowledge how the government does more harm than good, and how the free market may well provide a path forward if we but gave it a chance. Too often I hear the free market bearing the blame, when in fact it very well may carry the answer. I suggest that the problem with carbon emissions and harm to the environment is less about capitalism and “greedy corporations polluting the air” (though the latter does seem to enjoy the current government model) and more about what the government does to cause harm.

In light of this, I would like to suggest the following ideas to reduce government involvement, rather than expand it, in order to create a Free Green Market.

Hemp

In the European Union, we have also seen some sweeping measures being employed in order to reduce carbon emissions. One of these ideas has been to subsidize the burning of wood for heat and energy to replace nonrenewable fossil fuels that pollute the environment. On its face, it certainly seems like a good idea, and is said by some to be “carbon neutral”. The burning of woodchips can indeed be a very efficient way to generate heat. Many of these woodchips being burned have been derived from recycled building materials to offset the impact of deforestation as well. Trees are indeed a renewable resource and a relatively clean source of energy and heat. While they release smoke and carbon monoxide into the air scientists and climate change activists in some places have argued the trees they grow from offset whatever impact they have by absorbing all of that emission during their lifetime, releasing fresh oxygen into the atmosphere as they grow. The problem with this theory is first that according to some sources is that all of the carbon it absorbed during its lifetime is stored and then released upon burning back into the atmosphere. Believe it or not, this means it releases more into the atmosphere than many fossil fuels including coal and gas. To make matters worse the subsidization of wood burning in Europe, some assert, has led to mass deforestation to facilitate the demand. Even if we could keep up and plant a tree for each one that is burned it could take as long as 10-20 years for its emissions to be reabsorbed from the atmosphere at very least.

On the other hand, woodchips can also be derived from hemp. While a tree may take as long two decades to grow to its full size and be ready for harvest Hemp can grow between 10 and 20 feet high in as little as four months. In that time it is fully ready for harvesting and commercial use. While I haven’t researched or tested the theory it may also be worth considering whether or not this young plant would release fewer carbon emissions than its larger and longer-standing tree counterparts.  Either way it would substantially reduce the need for the resulting deforestation.

Woodchips aren’t all they have to offer, however. Hemp has been used in the manufacturing of canvas-like fabrics, rope, textiles, and paper. According to the Department of Agriculture, 1 acre of hemp can produce as much as 4 times more paper than an acre of trees. It is also naturally pest repelling and weed resistant, meaning no chemicals and/or harmful pesticides need to be used during its production. This makes it a much cleaner and more efficient alternative to similar crops including cotton.

Even as far back as Henry Ford hemp was even being used in the production of motor vehicles, but he had only discovered the tip of the iceberg as car manufacturers around the world are continuing to consider its potential in replacing other mined mineral resources in their production.  Some companies, for instace the Canopy Corporation are also considering its use as an alternative to petroleum plastics. Instead of banning straws and abandoning plastic grocery bags, what if they were made from renewable, rather than oil resources?

I do not suggest subsidizing hemp or expanding government involvement, but what if we eliminated subsidies for some their less environmentally friendly competitors like those we supply for timber and cotton?

Only recently through the passage of the Farm Bill, supported unanimously by the Senate and signed by the president, was industrial hemp made legal in the United States. This momentous decision has set the sky as the limit for the hemp industry, and it’s only the beginning. In light of the FDA promising to highly regulate the industry, and the strict licensing requirements, which this government has promised to rigorously enforce I also suggest considering the introduction of some legal protections for the industry and growers of hemp.

I also suggest scaling back some of the current bill’s restrictions that may be used to close the door of the industry to some disadvantaged individuals, or may be used as an excuse to prosecute and harass legitimate and licensed hemp growers.

This is a new beginning for hemp in America but the plant itself has far-reaching potential. Its legalization and the resulting industries that will develop will play a major role in revitalizing the economy, creating jobs, and indeed in cleaning up the environment.

 

 

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