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A Regional Algal Feedstock Testbed is shown. (Photo courtesy of University of Arizona Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering)

PHOENIX -- Goodbye, gas stations. We may soon use algae to power our cars.

University of Arizona researchers have been granted $8 million dollars by the Department of Energy to continue researching how to use algae to make biofuel, animal feed and plastics over the next four years.

"Our goal is to provide algal biofuel at a production cost equal to the cost of petroleum," said Randy Ryan, assistant director of the Arizona Agricultural Experiment Station, a component of UA's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

The researchers are using the Regional Algal Feedstock Testbed to develop continuous algae production across the Southwest. With algae production, Ryan said they should be able to address three major areas of interest to the general consumer.

"One, hopefully we can replace petroleum as a major source of carbon dioxide [pollution] in the atmosphere; number two, that we can produce animal feed from the residual biomass," said Ryan. "And the third and really the biggest one, an agricultural industry that's vibrant and produces fuel here in the U.S., where we keep those (petroleum) dollars here in the U.S."

Successes in those areas could generate a whole new industry around agricultural production of fuels, and have a vibrant, green economy that helps with economic development, he said.

"And we can do all that from growing algae," Ryan said.

Click here to learn more about the DOE grant and the Regional Algal Feedstock Testbed.

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