back to article Tobacco biofuel to solve energy/ environment crisis?

Boffins in Philadelphia, America have come up with a radical new plan for biofuels. Rather than the cars of tomorrow running on various forms of alcohol, sunflower oil, algae etc, the scientists propose that they should instead be fuelled by burning tobacco. "Tobacco is very attractive as a biofuel because the idea is to use …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Anonymous Coward

    Plants that produce oil? I've just seen a 2 parter about that on BBC1

    Glasses please

  2. Filippo Silver badge

    the energy still comes from the sun

    I have yet to hear a good explanation of why biofuels should be anything more than very inefficient solar panels.

    1. copsewood

      air transport

      Solar voltaic panels generate electricity directly. Concentrated Solar Thermal panels generate electricity via heat concentration. Solar heating panels substitute for heating fuel or electricity use by providing hot water. None of these applications are useful for generating fuel for very light and mobile applications, i.e. aircraft. Surface transport may become convertible to sustainably generated electrical use, e.g. through trams and railway electrification and vehicle battery technology. But air transport can't accept the low power to weight ratio of batteries, so to avoid net CO2 release, some kind of biofuel production is needed for sustainable air transport.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

      Solar panels don't produce oil, Filippo.

      Converting the solar energy into chemical energy - in easily storable compounds - is at least a big part of the reason plants appear so inefficient compared to solar panels.

    3. Pablo

      Construction Costs

      Plants may be inefficient solar panels. But they're inefficient *self-assembling* solar panels. Admittedly they're also generally disposable, but fortunately each plant also makes several ready-to-install copies of itself called "seeds" so you can make as many as you want. Neat trick, huh?

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      they tend to be more efficent then solar panels becouse they're more concentrated - go figure.

    5. Anonymous Coward


      Solar panels are not very efficient at all. They are usable only because sunlight is free. Plants are much more efficent in converting Sunlight to something usable. But they convert a small amount. Solar Panels are less efficent percentage-wise but can be deployed in larger arrays.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      IT Angle

      so where are your electric cars

      They are most definitely cheaper than solar panels! I think its more the fact that there are hundreds of millions of cars and trucks out there that get SFA benefit from solar panels. If electric cars become as convenient and economical as diesel & petrol driven vehicles i'm sure people will start to buy them. But a worldwide fleet transition is a 30 year project, and a project that we haven't even started with yet!

    7. Allan George Dyer

      but you don't have to build

      a factory to make them.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Only one problem

    Doesn’t burning tobacco produce a lot of methane? Methane has more global warming forcing than CO2 by a factor of 20, won’t this make any replacement of conventional fuel 20 times more damaging than the current fuel?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      IIRC 32 times

      ... according to those who only know for certain that they know f*** all, of course.

      I would have thought that the generally ignited tobacco would generally ignite the generally ignitable methane immediately on production? Or is that just exploding cigars?

    2. Red Bren

      Does it?

      If so, why not burn the methane as well?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Paris Hilton

      What do they teach kids today?

      Methane burns. It's what's in your cooker. Sheesh!

      Paris, 'cos I'd like to teach her a trick or two.

  4. Geoff Mackenzie

    pleased at ...

    ... the idea of every car, train, home boiler etc puffing out clouds of delicious carcinogenic smoke

    Er, they already do.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      particularly since...

      ... the switch to unleaded petrol, with its generally headier mix of aromatic hydrocarbons. many cars would be taken off the roads if the MOT emissions tests included benzene.

  5. Graham Marsden

    My tobacco-powered car has broken down...

    ... have you tried emptying the ashtray...?

  6. Bob 18

    Ancillary Benefit?

    Maybe this won't compete with food crops so much. But could it compete with the cigarette industry for raw material, thereby pushing up the price of fags? That in turn would probably prompt more people to quit.

    Ahh.. kill two birds with one stone.

  7. Ian Ferguson
    Thumb Up


    The hemp plant would be far superior. A strong, useful plant, great biomass, great fibre production for clothing, and even the flowers buds are useful, although mixing that and driving may not be perfect :)

    1. Citizen Kaned


      hemp has sod all THC in it. you would need to smoke ounces to get anything.

  8. captain veg Silver badge


    So that's alcohol and tobacco. When do we get to try wild, wild women?


  9. Eddy Ito


    Stick that in your [tail]pipe and smoke it!

  10. Anonymous Coward

    >"This would lead to starvation and deforestation just as ordinary biofuels do."

    At least you could have a fag, to stave off the hunger pangs.

  11. Keith Wingate

    My dream source for bio-fuel...

    .... is maple leaves. Or grass cuttings. I think about this every Sat. during the summer and fall (autumn), when the Mrs. has me raking this stuff and dumping it in a bin, to be carted off to the local landfill.

    Waste indeed.

  12. John Tserkezis
    Thumb Up

    Am I the only one seeing this?

    Oil companies are bastards, even to their own employees. They'll use additives to kill their users and envronment (albeit slowly) and once oil runs out, they'll have nothing left but to shift their line of work to something slightly less bastardy, like real estate, or used car sales. Or religion.

    Instead, we'll hand over the reigns to the tobacco companies, who like the oil mongers, have a primary self-interest in money, but are more than happy to kill their users quickly instead of slowly, and spend a substancial amount of their profits on PR work to make their cancer-riddled users feel good instead. On the upside, they kill the environment marginally more slowly than oil.

    So that makes it all right.

    So, in that case, I welcome our new tabaccy overlords to the top of the energy foodchain.

    Now, excuse me while I cough a lung out or something...

  13. Mark 110

    Mmmm tobacco

    Makes me laugh how people think tobacco smoke is so much more dangerous than any other smoke. At the end of the day would you rather be locked in a room with me smoking or your petrol engined car with the engine running? I know which I'd choose. Unfortunately I don't get a choice about inhaling the tonnes of poisonous gases being pumped into the atmosphere everyday by car drivers.

  14. raving angry loony


    Whereas 30-35% of hemp is oil by dry weight. Yet again, lobbyists win over any kind of sensible solutions.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You Drive I Choke

    Driving is a disgusting addiction. Drivers should be ashamed of themselves, it's filthy and antisocial. ASBOs and re-education camps for all drivers. All employees of the DVLA to be put on trial for the encouragement of the shameful act of driving.

    1. TeeCee Gold badge

      Anonymous Coward?

      You are Gordon Brown and I claim my five pounds.

  16. John 181

    Fine, I will save the world!

    Want to save the world

    Step 1

    Construct massive, very long Tunnels under a Deserts using TBMs

    Step 2

    Fill with salt water from the rising seas!

    Step 3

    Grow billions of tons of Algea


    Vast areas of unused land that are not used for food production.

    Solar power availiable to run the whole production process

    Poor parts of the world hit by Global Warming will turn into deserts so perfect places to build Production Plants that provide jobs and investment in local economy!

    Oh wait, this wont make rich evil corporations even richer!


  17. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Life cycle costs anyone

    Only IIRC tobacco is *very* energy intensive to cultivate. Lots of fertiliser and quite vulnerable to infections (althouth Nicotine seems to make quite a good natural pesticide).

    Looking at the breakdown of cigarette smoke some time ago it did seem to me that controlled burning would probably give a nice synthetic mix of chemical raw materials quite like synthetic crude oil, and a rich playground for catalyst chemists to manipulate them.

    Itf they think it can compete let's see it.

    OTOH hemp is a weed which grows quite well (I'm told) almost anywhere in the world.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    They just have to resort to more GM tinkering to get the hoped for changes, don't they. Can't do proper horticulture as practiced for generations, oh no.

This topic is closed for new posts.

Other stories you might like