University of Louisville Studying if Hemp can Help Replace Fossil Fuel Reliance

Article by James Bruggers, The Courier-Journal


University of Louisville’s Conn Center for Renewable Energy Research is growing hemp, the university announced Tuesday.

The 40-by-40-foot experimental plot will allow researchers to study the marijuana relative’s potential for fuels and use in manufacturing.

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture and the University of Kentucky Agriculture Department are partners in the study located near the center’s headquarters on the U of L Belknap Campus. Nearby plots will be planted with switchgrass and kenaf, two other plants that have similar potential as fuels, campus officials said.

Industrial hemp is worthless as a recreational drug. The hemp plant does, however, boast long, dense fibers that already are proving valuable in some manufacturing applications. It also has a woody core that may be effective as an alternative to fossil fuels.

“Hemp is cleaner and cheaper to produce than coal, oil or other resources,” said Mahendra Sunkara, professor of chemical engineering and director of the Conn Center. “It could solve many of the nation’s future energy needs while providing a new, lucrative cash crop for Kentucky’s farmers.”

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