By JIM EFSTATHIOU Jr.
Backers of using methanol from natural gas as a substitute
for gasoline got a chilly reception from a federal official
who said he is skeptical the fuel will gain widespread
adoption for use in cars and trucks.
Industry representatives face obstacles promoting methanol as
a way to cut greenhouse-gas emissions
and boost engine
performance, Patrick Davis, director of the Energy
Departments Vehicles Technologies Office, said
Wednesday in Washington.
Theres a lot of choices out there and
theyre all vying for a fairly limited market,
Davis said at an industry conference. It is going to be
a fight for any fuel to succeed.
Using the fuel would reduce reliance on imported oil and be a
hedge against oil-price shocks that raise gasoline prices,
said John Hofmeister, founder of Citizens for Affordable
Energy and president of Shell Oil Co., the US unit of Royal
Dutch Shell, from 2005 to 2008. He also is a member of the
United States Energy Security Council, which sponsored the
Globally, about 40% of methanol
is used by energy
companies, said John Floren, CEO of Methanex, the
worlds largest supplier. The Vancouver-based company
has dismantled two production plants in Chile and plans to
reassemble them in Louisiana.
We expect a lot of new plants to be built here in the
US, Floren said.
Advances in drilling techniques, including hydraulic
fracturing or fracking, have boosted US production of natural
gas by 35% from a decade-low 18 trillion cubic feet in 2005,
according to the Energy Information Administration.
plants worldwide can
produce about 100 million metric tons (almost 33 billion
gallons or 90 billion liters), and each day more than 100,000
tons is used as a chemical feedstock
or as a transportation
fuel, according to the Methanol Institute, which co-sponsored
depends on passing a law
forcing automakers to produce cars that run on methanol, and
approval by the US Environment
al Protection Agency to
use it as a transportation fuel, Hofmeister said. Better
lobbying of lawmakers on Capitol Hill also is needed, he
Methanol matters for the same reason that ethanol
matters, which is its an alternative to oil,
Hofmeister said in an interview. It would help if
people on the hill understood the value to the consumer and
the importance in the fuel mix.
Producers of ethanol, made from corn, outspend methanol
makers on lobbying by 50 to 1, said Gal Luft, senior adviser
to the United States Energy Security Council, which backs oil
One hurdle is the lack of infrastructure to produce and
deliver methanol to fueling stations, Davis said.
There are lots of competitors out there, Davis
said. Its not at all completely clear that methanol
has the suit of attributes
that would favor it as a winner.