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Could our future energy supply lie in the foliage all around us? Maybe. Plants and trees harvest high quantities of energy-rich sugars that can be turned into fuel. However, scientists run into trouble with the notoriously hard-to-break-down cellulose compound. That’s where the energy-packing plant sugar is stored.

But change is coming. Agrivida, a start-up agriculture bio-technology company, is toying with corn stover (the leaves and stalks of maize plants) to simplify the break-down process. Their experiments show that stover embedded with a genetically altered protein results in a 60 percent rise in the conversation rate of cellulose to glucose.

The Agrivida treatment involves less chemical emissions and costs less money than other biofuel production. Not bad for a start-up.

Although it is still far from commercial use, this new technology is promising. As tensions over foreign oil, resource scarcity and environmental issues continue to rise, these breakthroughs will become even more important.