Column Date 2010-03-30

The tobacco-powered car is here

Winston-Salem, NC (April 1)  Scientists at the Tobacco Institute of the Carolinas today unveiled a revolutionary new automobile fuel made from tobacco.

At a private press briefing this morning, a spokesperson said: "Ever since the federal government raised the tax on cigarettes, we've had a glut of tobacco leaves."

"This new fuel solves two problems at once -- it will help support hard-pressed tobacco farmers and, at the same time, we'll have less tobacco available for cigarettes, thus reducing smoking in this country."

The new fuel, dubbed "tobacc-anol" by lab scientists, is made by breaking down the sugars naturally present in the tobacco leaf, much the same way ethanol is made from corn.

However, the high nicotine content of tobacco serves to naturally "supercharge" the fuel, giving cars extra power and much greater pick-up than ordinary corn-based fuel.

The prototype of the new tobacco-fueled engine was mounted in a Ford Focus, and put through its paces at a secret location in North Carolina.

At first, the tobacc-anol engine coughed and sputtered a lot when it was started in the early morning.

Once it warmed up, however, the engine ran smoothly, and this reporter could detect no difference between the tobacca-nol engine and a normal one powered by gasoline.

A lobbyist for the oil industry, speaking off the record, cautioned that this new fuel could fill our streets with 'second-hand' smoke, causing serious medical and environmental problems.

"Global warming will be nothing compared with 'global coughing' if this stuff catches on," he said.

Scientists in Winston-Salem were confident that a new technology, using tubular cellulose and cork filters attached to the exhaust pipe would quickly solve the problem.

A mechanic at the test site said that tobacc-anol was stable, dependable, and had a much more acceptable scent than gasoline. "It's very pleasant when you're filling up," he said, "reminds me of menthol."

He added that the new engine performed best if used daily, and warned that letting it sit around idly for several days, without the nicotine fuel running through it, tended to make it cranky and unhappy.

(c) 2010 Peter Tannen