Growing tobacco is a billion dollar industry, but while producers are happy, millions of people worldwide die from cancer and heart disease due to cigarette smoking every year. Now, Boeing says that cultivating the deadly plant is not a bad thing, especially if it can be turned it into biofuel for jets.
In many regions of the world, tobacco cultivation is the main source of income. Last century brought incredible revenue to numerous communities across Africa, southern Europe, Asia and Latin America, who supplied enormous amounts of the plant to cigarette makers. Back then, smoking was considered trendy and highly popular. Unfortunately, while the industry was blooming, the number of nicotine addicts increased dramatically, resulting in millions of painful and horrific death cases.
Over the past decade, however, the smoking trend has started to change. Smoking is no longer considered a sign of prosperity, actually it is the exact opposite of that. Many people slowly began to realize the hidden dangers and terrible consequences of the bad habit, while governments introduced much higher taxes on tobacco products. Unfortunately, as it is with any industry that harms society, its disappearance has an immediate effect on producers, who have to face the need of finding an alternative way of providing for their families.
Boeing, together with South African Airways, however, claim to have found the solution to this problem. They have initiated production of carbon-free jet fuel, out of nicotine-free hybrid tobacco plant, called Solaris. The biofuel will be made by SkyNRG, a famous fuel maker. The companies have already began farm testing in South Africa, and are convinced that the alternative jet fuel will be ready for sale in the coming few years.
If successful, the new biofuel will solve quite a number of problems at once. For starters, tobacco growers will be encouraged to sustain their farms, but this time they will not be putting any lives at risk. In addition, using Solaris as a source of biofuel will not put pressure on food production, as it is the case with other crops used for energy. And last but definitely not least, the aviation industry will have a clean guilt- and carbon-free fuel to power their big planes.
Image (c) Boeing