Published: Saturday 31 December 1994

A Texas-based company, Energy Biosystems Corporation, has recently patented a recombinant gene that it "hopes will help eliminate acid rain". By manipulating the DNA of soil bacteria of the genus Rhodococcus, scientists have created an organism that "eats and metabolises" the acid rain-causing sulphur present in fossil fuels.

The "newly reprogrammed" bacteria are mixed with water and added to fossil fuels. Once the bacteria eat the sulphur, they are filtered out of the oil and reused.

Polluters like oil refineries, power plants and the transportation industry are under pressure to reduce sulphur emissions, and "the best way to do that may be to clean up the fuels as they are refined".

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