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DOE’s Scum Ranchers

June 28, 2018

The Department of Energy is trying to turn the Salton Sea, a lake in the California desert, into a farm for renewable fuels — and clean its infamously polluted water in the process. The Salton Sea Biomass Remediation (SABRE) Project harnesses algae’s ability to grow in hostile conditions. The Sea’s water is polluted with agricultural fertilizers and pesticides that algae can filter out and use to fuel its own growth. Every week, researchers harvest algae from a 900-foot metal chute in a wetland by the Salton Sea, process it, and take it to Sandia National Laboratories, where they’re testing methods to turn it into a high-quality fuel. The end goal is for algae fuel to replace oil in everything from cars to plastics. VICE News went to the California desert to see how project is progressing.

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