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In the seach for alternatives to gasoline and diesel as a transportation fuel, methanol hardly gets attention. But a 54 year old software mogul and entrepreneur, Yossie Hollander, has established the Fuel Freedom Foundation dedicated to promoting its virtues.
And methanol has plenty. It is manufactured from natural gas, of which the United States has plenty. It’s an easy substitute for gasoline, requiring only minimal modification to cars. There are 18 refineries already producing it for industrial uses, and the process is simple and cost effective. Plus it creates less air pollution than gasoline.
Methanol is the fuel of choice for NASCAR. And in the 1970s the U.S. embarked on a promising methanol fuel program that unfortunately withered away as gasoline prices climbed down from their OPEC embargo highs.
Like most alternative fuels, methanol lacks the energy density of gasoline, but at a gallon equivalent price of about $2 a gallon, methanol still makes economic sense. The one serious knock on ethanol (not mentioned in the article link above) is that it is poisonous if ingested. But given the shortcommings of all the other alternative fuels, ethanol especially, Hollander’s case for methanol is compelling.
Unfortunately good ideas like this have a huge mountain to climb if they ever stand a chance of development. That mountain is the EPA and its political collusion with the ethanol industry. Ethanol is a terrible fuel, consuming almost as much energy as it contains in the process of refining and bringing a whole host of environmental problems with it. Not to mention the moral questionability of turning food into fuel for our cars.
Methanol might have a chance in a country with a scientifically literate media, a federal civil service with intellectual integrity, and a government that serves the people, but that’s not us.
Environmentalists and people from the EPA and the Energy Department talk a lot about “transition fuels,” that will get us unhooked from fossil fuels a bit at a time until the technology for cleaner fuels is developed. That’s a legitimate point. There is not an infinite supply of fossil fuels to be had.
But from where I sit, the biggest impediment to the development of transition fuels like methanol and natural gas is the EPA and the Energy Department, which have sold out to the ethanol lobby. By granting this one fuel government favor, it effectively guarantees that all the rest can’t compete. Nice work guys!