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The Obama administration announced on Thursday that it is putting $44 million in new funding toward research and development for using biofuels and natural gas as transportation fuels.

The Department of Energy's (DOE) Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E) program will provide $30 million for research into natural gas, and the DOE is also making $14 million available for algae-based biofuels R&D.

The administration says the majority of natural gas vehicle technologies available today are "either too large or too expensive" for widespread use in passenger vehicles. In turn, the ARPA-E funding will support a new initiative called Methane Opportunities for Vehicular Energy, or MOVE.

This R&D will emphasize finding ways to develop natural gas storage technologies that are lower in cost and can operate at lower tank pressures. ARPA-E will mainly fund projects that focus on the creation of lightweight tanks and absorbing materials that are sized properly for passenger vehicles. Funds will also be aimed at the development of natural gas compressors that can efficiently and safely fuel vehicles at residences.

The DOE's funding for developing transportation fuels derived from algae will be targeted to small businesses, universities and national laboratories that can modify their existing facilities to accommodate long-term research and the testing of new production processes.

These advanced projects should seek to "significantly improve the sustainability of algae-based biofuels and accelerate technological breakthroughs," with a goal of creating new commercial-production techniques, the DOE says.

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