WASHINGTON President Obama announced new funding Feb. 23 to catalyze breakthrough technologies for natural gas and biofuels as part of his all-of-the-above energy strategy to reduce the country's reliance on foreign oil and provide alternatives to conventional gasoline vehicles.

Through its Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), the Energy Department will make $30 million available for a new research competition in the coming months that will engage the country's brightest scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs to find ways to harness our abundant supplies of domestic natural gas for vehicles. The Department of Energy will also make $14 million available to support research and development into biofuels from algae. These programs are designed to encourage scientific breakthroughs that will help diversify the nation's energy portfolio, grow American companies, and develop alternative vehicle technologies that do not rely on oil.

President Obama announced the programs during a speech at the University of Miami in Miami, where he toured the school's Industrial Assessment Center (IAC), an Energy Department program that teaches students how to become industrial energy efficiency experts as they help small- to mid-sized manufacturers cut energy costs.

ARPA-E seeks to fund projects that will develop lightweight tanks for cars that can run on natural gas and fit into modern passenger vehicles. This approach includes developing affordable natural gas compressors that can efficiently fuel a natural gas vehicle at home. ARPA-E also seeks to fund projects that will develop absorbing materials that are able to hold gas, similar to how a sponge holds water. These materials could lower pressure in vehicle tanks that hold and release natural gas, making them safer and more affordable.

The Energy Department will seek proposals from small businesses, universities, and national laboratories to modify existing facilities for long-term algae research and test new production processes that could lead to commercial biofuels made from algae. Specifically, the new projects will establish and operate research “test beds” for algal biofuels that can facilitate development, test new approaches to algae production, and discover innovative ways to minimize the water and nutrients needed to mass produce algae for commercial biofuels. These advanced research projects will aim to significantly improve the sustainability of algae-based biofuels and accelerate technological breakthroughs. These awards represent the first phase in a total $30 million investment in algal biofuels in fiscal year 2012.

Visit the Funding Opportunity Exchange website for more details on the funding opportunities.