Newest Climate Threat: Legal Pot!

Turns out cultivating marijuana in non-tropical or temperate climates is very energy intensive. From the Durango (CO) Herald:

Cannabis Growers Pressure the Grid

Utilities and grid operators worry about the impacts that energy-hogging marijuana will bring to their grids, and are excited about the profits they’ll bring to their bottom line.

The issue is pressing enough that it got its own session – “The Straight Dope on Energy & the Marijuana Industry” – at the Nov. 11 annual meeting of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners in Austin, Texas.

Attendees learned that Xcel Energy, which serves most of urban Colorado, sells some 300 gigawatt hours of electricity to pot growers per year, or enough to power some 35,000 homes. The U.S. marijuana-growing industry could soon buy as much as $11 billion per year in electricity.

One study estimates that it takes as much energy to produce 18 pints of beer as it does just one joint. The data are alarming, and will only get more so as legalization spreads.

Back in 2011, a California energy and environmental systems analyst, Evan Mills, published a paper quantifying the carbon footprint of indoor cannabis production. That footprint, he discovered, was huge. His findings included:

While the U.S. pharmaceutical sector uses $1 billion/year in energy, indoor cannabis cultivation uses $6 billion.

Indoor cannabis production consumes 3 percent of California’s total electricity, 9 percent of its household electricity and 1 percent of total U.S. electricity (equivalent to 2 million U.S. homes per year).

U.S. cannabis production results in 15 million tons of greenhouse-gas emissions per year, or the same as emitted by 3 million cars.

Potheads: Enemies of the planet.