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The first tree genome is published: Poplar holds promise as renewable bioenergy resource

WALNUT CREEK, CA--Wood from a common tree may one day factor prominently in meeting transportation fuel needs, according to scientists whose research on the fast-growing poplar tree is featured on the cover of tomorrow's edition of the journal Science.

The article, highlighting the analysis of the first complete DNA sequence of a tree, the black cottonwood or Populus trichocarpa, lays the groundwork that may lead to the development of trees as an ideal "feedstock" for a new generation of biofuels such as cellulosic ethanol. The research is the result of a four-year scientific and technical effort, led by the U.S. Department of Energy's Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI) and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), uniting the efforts of 34 institutions from around the world, including the University of British Columbia, and Genome Canada; Ume University, Sweden; and Ghent University, Belgium.

"Biofuels could provide a major answer to our energy needs by giving the United States a homegrown, environmentally friendlier alternative to imported oil," said DOE's Under Secretary for Science Dr. Raymond L. Orbach. "Fine-tuning plants for biofuels production is one of the keys to making biofuels economically viable and cost-effective. This research, employing the latest genomic technologies, is an important step on the road to developing practical, biologically-based substitutes for gasoline and other fossil fuels."

"Biofuels are not only attractive for their potential to cut reliance on oil imports but also their reduced environmental impact," said Dr. Gerald A. Tuskan, ORNL and DOE JGI researcher and lead author of the SCIENCE study.

"Biofuels emit fewer pollutants than fossil fuels such as gasoline. In addition, poplar and related plants are vital managers of atmospheric carbon. Trees store captured carbon dioxide in their leaves, branches, stems, and roots. This natural process provides opportunities to improve carbon removal from the air by
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Contact: David Gilbert
gilbert21@llnl.gov
925-296-5643
DOE/Joint Genome Institute
14-Sep-2006


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