Sci/Tech Corn Primed for Making Biofuel

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In an effort to help boost the nation's supply of biofuels, researchers have created three strains of genetically modified corn to manufacture enzymes that break down the plant's cellulose into sugars that can be fermented into ethanol. Incorporating such enzymes directly into the plants could reduce the cost of converting cellulose into biofuel.

Last year, new federal regulations called for production of renewable fuels to increase to 36 billion gallons annually--nearly five times current levels--by 2022. Today, nearly all fuel ethanol in the United States is produced from corn kernels. To meet the required increase, researchers are turning to other sources, such as cellulose, a complex carbohydrate found in all plants. Corn leaves and stems, prairie grasses, and wood chips are leading candidates for supplies of cellulose. Cellulosic ethanol has many advantages over that produced from corn kernels. Cellulose is not only extremely abundant and inexpensive; studies also suggest that the production and use of ethanol from cellulose could yield fewer greenhouse gases.

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