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Power

Cheaper Fuel From Self-Destructing Trees 112

sciencehabit (1205606) writes "Wood is great for building and heating homes, but it's the bane of biofuels. When converting plants to fuels, engineers must remove a key component of wood, known as lignin, to get to the sugary cellulose that's fermented into alcohols and other energy-rich compounds. That's costly because it normally requires high temperatures and caustic chemicals. Now, researchers in the United States and Canada have modified the lignin in poplar trees to self-destruct under mild processing conditions—a trick that could slash the cost of turning plant biomass into biofuels."
Transportation

GM Car Owners With OnStar Now Can Be Their Own Rental Agencies 195

The Los Angeles Times reports that the world of micro-rentals just got a whole lot more crowded, with the introduction of a nationwide partnership between GM and ride-sharing company RelayRides. RelayRides has been arranging short-term car sharing in just a few cities for several years; car owners can sign up to make their own cars available for short-term rentals to others, so their expensive investment (especially in cities where parking is like a second apartment's rent) isn't sitting idle. Now, the two companies are rolling out that system in a much larger market: the rest of the U.S. Owners of GM cars new enough to be equipped with OnStar monitoring systems will be able to sign up to take part with the OnStar system providing the ability to unlock and track those cars remotely, which might make the bargain more attractive to many owners who'd like to earn money from their cars (and reduce the total number of cars needed in a given area), but reluctant to hand the keys to a stranger. (Cars without the system can still be enrolled, but will require a key hand-off.)

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