Keep Your Foot on the Grass: Hemp Car Touts Fuel

Keep Your Foot on the Grass: Hemp Car Touts Fuel
Posted by FoM on October 05, 2001 at 21:39:20 PT
By Lisa Allen-Agostini, WP Staff Writer
Source: Washington Post
Exhaust from a car that burns hemp oil doesn't have the smell of a smoldering, fat-rolled joint. It has the greasy smell of cooking oil -- burning cooking oil, to be exact. And the Hemp Car purring its way down 14th Street NW smells like a small kitchen fire on wheels.Grayson Sigler and his wife, Kellie, along with their companions Scott Fur and Charles Ruchalski, just spent three months traveling the country in a hemp-powered car, hoping to promote the use of the oil as alternative fuel. They returned to Washington this week.
There's nothing special about the Siglers' 18-year-old Mercedes station wagon. It's just a car -- one covered bumper to bumper with decals and stickers advertising its dozen or so sponsors. There are no '60s-style hippie hallucinogenic flowers, not one cosmically fantastic whorl. Except for the word "hemp" and the marijuana leaves painted all over it, the car wouldn't draw a second glance.The Siglers' extraordinary/ordinary hempmobile took the four travelers, all from Hampton, Va., 12,600 miles. And no, they didn't do it by shoving stalks of hemp into the fuel tank. They used hemp "biodiesel" -- a thin, oily, bright green liquid -- made from hemp seed oil in a process called trans-esterification.Flies love it, says Fur, the 27-year-old media flack for the Hemp Car. For the past three months they've had swarms of them -- they call them Freds -- following the sweet fuel from Washington to dozens of stops, including Minneapolis, Seattle, Los Angeles, Austin and Charlotte.Grayson Sigler, 33, and Kellie, 24, came up with the idea for the trip a year ago. Charles "Chuck" Ruchalski, 26, a lanky guy in oversize jeans and a riot of blond curls, came along as the crew's photographer.They'd like to see marijuana and hemp legalized in the United States.Growing hemp, like marijuana, is illegal, though research has shown that industrial hemp contains only tiny amounts of THC, the chemical that gives marijuana its buzz.Industrial hemp, says hemp scientist Dave West, is to marijuana what field corn is to sweet corn. They may look alike but there's a difference between the starchy field corn and the sugary sweet corn, and "never the twain shall meet," says West, a plant breeder who has headed the Hawaii Industrial Hemp Research Project since its inception in 1999.Grayson Sigler and the car's crew returned to Washington on Wednesday, officially winding up their cross-country crusade. "There's no reasonable argument for the prohibition of hemp," says Sigler in his soft, delicately lisping voice, looking like a rock star with his goatee, aviator shades and bucket hat.The Drug Enforcement Administration doesn't agree. It makes no distinction between hemp and marijuana. "Hemp is marijuana," says DEA spokeswoman Rogene Waite.But grass-roots hemp activists note that the plant's seeds and fiber can be used to make paper, building materials, food, cloth and rope, and maybe even sing and dance if you give it time."Is there one more thing about this plant that if we discover it, they'll say it's okay to grow it?" West asks in exasperation. Hemp eventually could be profitable for farmers, he adds.There's already a small U.S. market for hemp-based cosmetics, food and clothing, which the DEA says can be legally imported. And some U.S. researchers do have permits to grow the plant -- for research purposes only.Sigler is a farmer himself, he says, with two acres in Hampton. The Siglers do research on "how to grow food without depleting the soil, in the most efficient way possible," Kellie says.The couple hit upon the Hemp Car idea when they decided to visit a friend in California. They wanted to travel "in some kind of way that doesn't pollute" the environment as much as traditional fuels, Grayson Sigler says. The Siglers financed the $50,000 project with their own money and sponsorship funding. They overhauled their Benz, figured out a route and set up a network of supporters at stops nearly every other day along the way. They set off on July 4.The group used about 600 gallons of biodiesel -- pure hemp fuel, not mixed with petroleum diesel; most of it was brewed up by Todd Swearingen, whose company, Appal Energy, was among the tour's sponsors. Swearingen mailed five-gallon containers to stops along their route. The Hemp crew hauled the fuel in the back of the car, along with the promotional hemp T-shirts, hemp baseball caps and hemp lip balm.Their troubles were minor, they say. Their goal had been to drive 10,000 miles, and they did that just fine, breaking down for the first time in Texas and a second time in Alabama. (It wasn't the oil, they say, just the old car.)Scott Fur had been in the habit of saying they'd burn up on reentry. And boy, did they. Five miles from Hampton, last Thursday, the engine burst into flames on I-664. When the crew drove into Washington a week later (they went home for a few days before officially ending the trip), the front of the car was still covered in white powdery residue from the fire extinguisher.But Kellie isn't focusing on the things that went wrong. The pixieish newlywed (she married Grayson in April -- mostly, she says, to add the wedding gift cash to the Hemp Car kitty) remembers that the mayor of Tomah, Wis., declared a Hemp Car Day when they passed through. She also remembers the "old-timers" who cheered them along, some recalling the days they used to grow hemp themselves.The travelers were welcomed back to Washington by a handful of people at a party at the Metro Cafe in Northwest.The original plan had been for the trip to end with a triumphant drive up to the White House, where the crew hoped to present a hemp flag to the president.That's not so important now, says Kellie. Besides, the hemp flag got dirty when the car caught fire.Complete Title: Keep Your Foot on the Grass: Hemp Car Touts Alternative Fuel Source: Washington Post (DC) Author: Lisa Allen-Agostini, Washington Post Staff WriterPublished: Saturday, October 6, 2001; Page C01 Copyright: 2001 Washington Post Contact: letterstoed washpost.comWebsite: Articles & Web Sites:Hemp Car's Hemp Links Car Rolls Into Town Madness - Village Voice 
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Comment #2 posted by JR Bob Dobbs on October 06, 2001 at 02:39:20 PT
The Post, Petrol, Pot, Puns, and Prohibition
>>"There's no reasonable argument for the prohibition of hemp," [...]   The Drug Enforcement Administration doesn't agree. It makes no distinction between hemp and marijuana. "Hemp is marijuana," says DEA spokeswoman Rogene Waite.  "Hemp is marijuana" is NOT a reasonable argument for the prohibition of EITHER. Matter of fact, I can't find one in the entire article.
See the Hemp Car's stop in Vancouver on Pot-TV!
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Comment #1 posted by i420 on October 05, 2001 at 23:58:51 PT
>; p
Man mastered flight but with of course some setbacks. Now if the "man" could master us up some.
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