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On China’s Growing Methanol Economy

Nathan,

“It has only about half of the energy per unit volume of gasoline, so only purpose-built cars with jumbo tanks will satisfy main-stream consumers.”—This is an issue of price. At $1.50 a gallon for methanol people will drive twice as often to the gas station over $4 gasoline. Besides, existing engines could utilize the higher octane of methanol/ethanol fuel to get better fuel economy than just its energy content. In our tests we got a ratio as high as 1:1.6 for gasoline vs. methanol.

“With CO2 emissions reductions in our future, the only way for methanol to be major part of our future fuel mix is with 100% biomass based production.”—Even with methanol coming from natural gas there are substantial emission improvements vs. newly found oil such as tar sands and ultra-deep sea drilling. However, let’s  not forget that the biggest issue we have with oil is the cost. The cost of oil is a bigger short/intermediate term issue than its carbon footprint.

With regard to ammonia, CNG and other fuels, we are for opening the fuel market to competition. If ammonia turns out to be the best fuel, great!

Rick,

Yes, ethanol is in the run for the fuel blend of the future. We are seeing new ethanol pathways getting to market including ethanol from algae, from cellulose and perhaps as interesting, ethanol from natural gas. But we need both volume and low price to really ignite competition in the fuels market. We want many feedstocks, many fuels, and many modalities (electric, CNG/LNG, trucks to rail, etc).

Also, a new methanol update- Saudi's Sabic is getting ready to scrap its $5.3 billion #methanol project in Trinidad http://on.wsj.com/13yada9. Good or bad?

March 4, 2013    View Comment    

On Lessons From AT&T: Should Big Oil Get Scared?

Hi John,

Thank you for your thoughtful response. I would like to offer the following points.  

The break-up of AT&T started in the 1970’s during the Carter administration, where some successes were achieved, and continued for decades.  It was a slow process that is still going on today. It incentivized innovation in the market. We went from clunky phones in the 1970’s to the mass- adoption of multifunctioning phones in the 1990’s. Technology will continue to evolve and respond to consumer needs. Sure, the average person’s cell phone bill is higher due to a myriad of factors- additional options functions and features. Today, consumers don’t have one option if they wish to call internationally. They have many options: prepaid card, viber or vonage, to name a few.

By opening up the market to replacement fuels, suppliers and auto manufactures, will in time, create vehicles that still offer the essential features of today's ICE vehicles – it's not an either or situation. I am not asking people to change their lifestyle. I am advocating for more fuel options. For consumers, competition means more choice and improved quality.

In regards to natural gas and methanol, let’s open the restricted fuel market and let it decide. We can take significant steps to open the fuel market by amending current regulations. Investments in technology and infrastructure will make replacements, including natural gas, more accessible, efficient and affordable, eventually providing a pathway for mass-adoption. We both agree that electric cars have their limitations (costly patents, weak battery supply chain, public charging infrastructure, etc.) but with technological advancements, they can be the wave of the future.

Regardless of API’s motivation, the testing of E15 conducted by the Coordinating Research Council (CRC) neither captures nor represents the reality of the U.S. car market. The DOE indicated that the study reflected weak methodology and that its conclusions were not statistically significant. I invite you to review EPA’s response or Fuel Freedom for additional perspectives. What we need is a fair consumer evaluation of safe/abundant/domestic replacement fuels with a reasonable set of regulations. I envision a future where replacement fuels can be a part of the mix and fairly compete for the American dollar.  

February 6, 2013    View Comment