Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Politico is worried that restrictions on the transport of Marijuana across state borders is creating distribution network inefficiencies which is helping to drive climate change – by a surprising amount.
An inconvenient truth (about weed)
Federal laws bar cannabis from crossing state lines, driving up the cost — and the emissions — of an industry using indoor grow operations.
08/10/2021 04:30 AM EDT
Nationally, 80 percent of cannabis is cultivated indoors with sophisticated lighting and environmental controls designed to maximize the plant’s yield. It’s a setup that can consume up to 2,000 watts of electricity per square meter, 40 times what it takes for leafy greens like lettuce, when grown indoors.
“For being such a ‘green’ industry, there’s some skeletons in the closet,” said Kaitlin Urso, an environmental consultant with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Despite piecemeal attempts by states and some growers to reduce their power consumption, at least one expert estimates the industry’s footprint already accounts for more than 1 percent of U.S. electricity consumption and continues to rise. Complicating matters further, federal laws also bar the flow of weed over state lines. That requires companies to grow cannabis in each state where they want to do business and deprives them of the scale that makes other industries more efficient.
One recent model estimated that Massachusetts’ nascent cannabis industry represented 10 percent of the state’s industrial electricity consumption in 2020. Another study found that growing enough bud for a joint — a gram — consumes as much electricity as driving about 20 miles in a fuel-efficient car. Then there’s the still-vibrant illegal market — where there are no emissionsrules whatsoever — that consumes fossil fuels at an even higher rate, often using standalone generators or stealing power from neighbors to fuel their operations.
…Read more: https://www.politico.com/news/2021/08/10/weed-cannabis-legalization-energy-503004
Focussing on CO2 emissions from interstate transport seems seems a poor choice of priorities – surely the more pressing problem is all the electricity being used to actually grow the weed?
Mandating that only pure green electricity can be used to grow weed, no cheating by switching to fossil fuel sources if the renewables fail, would buy time to address the problem of distribution network inefficiencies.
With pure green electricity, the indoor weed plants will only receive light when the wind blows or the sun shines, or so long as the battery backup can supply electricity to the grow rooms. And it would be a great test case for moving the entire economy to renewables.
That shouldn’t be a problem right?