Airplanes

The First Tobacco-Powered Plane Took Off In 2016

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Tobacco use has declined big time in the last 40 years, which is good news for public health. Unfortunately, it's bad news for tobacco farmers, and anyone who lives in a place where the crop still plays a large role in the economy. That's why many are looking for alternative uses for tobacco that could keep the crop in business without keeping people addicted. One of those uses addresses another global problem: oil production. Among the toxic ingredients in tobacco is tar, which is made of hydrocarbon compounds just like those in petroleum. This makes it a prime candidate for creating biofuels. Cultivated in South Africa, Solaris tobacco is genetically engineered to be very low in nicotine but high in oil, making it perfect for producing fuel. In July 2016, the first biofuel-powered commercial planes in Africa carried 300 passengers from Johannesburg to Cape Town, partially powered by Solaris tobacco plants. Boeing has said it plans to use biofuel in routine flights soon.

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