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Converting tobacco into a bioenergy crop

Narrator:   ​This is Science Today. A team of researchers led by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory are working on a project to produce fuel molecules in tobacco plants. The Berkeley Lab's Christer Jansson and his team are taking hydrocarbon-synthesizing genes in certain algae that derive energy from photosynthesis and are putting them into tobacco plants.

Jansson:    ​We want to produce biofuels directly in the leaves. You can harvest the leaves and extract the biofuel molecules out of there and use it as drop-in fuels. We need to find out what additional steps do we need to take to optimize production on these hydrocarbon fuels. Once we have a plant and a production yield that promises commercial levels within the near future, I think that we will be able to attract the interest of the big tobacco companies. Growing tobacco for cigarette consumption is a dwindling industry and we believe that converting tobacco into a bioenergy crop will also generate a new market for tobacco farmers.

Narrator:​   For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.