Methanol may be part of the answer, but not for now

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Article Highlights

  • It is far from clear that methanol could compete as a transportation fuel even if federal policy reforms were to create a level playing field.

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In "A Chemistry Breakthrough That Could Fuel a Revolution" (op-ed, Oct. 11) extolling the virtues of methanol as a transportation fuel, George A. Olah and Chris Cox fail to mention one central fact: Methanol has about half the energy content of gasoline. (Ethanol has about two-thirds.)

It is far from clear that methanol could compete as a transportation fuel even if federal policy reforms were to create a level playing field. Their complaints about the anticompetitive effects of the current requirement for blending ethanol with gasoline are spot on. But they then advocate a similar anticompetitive advantage for methanol with their argument that carbon dioxide could be captured from coal-fired power plants and used as a cheap feedstock for methanol production. That would require a regulatory policy that would have no effect on future temperatures regardless of which climate model is applied. But it would have anticompetitive effects in the electricity market. They are demanding a level playing field for their product while advocating against one for their central input. That is no model of consistency.

Benjamin Zycher

American Enterprise Institute

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About the Author

 

Benjamin
Zycher
  • Benjamin Zycher is the John G. Searle Chair and a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where he works on energy and environmental policy. He is also a senior fellow at the Pacific Research Institute.

    Before joining AEI, Zycher conducted a broad research program in his public policy research firm, and was an intelligence community associate of the Office of Economic Analysis, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, US Department of State.  He is a former senior economist at the RAND Corporation, a former adjunct professor of economics at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and at the California State University Channel Islands, and is a former senior economist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology.  He served as a senior staff economist for the President's Council of Economic Advisers, with responsibility for energy and environmental policy issues.

    Zycher has a doctorate in economics from UCLA, a Master in Public Policy from the University of California, Berkeley, and a Bachelor of Arts in political science from UCLA.

  • Email: benjamin.zycher@aei.org
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    Phone: 202.862.5903
    Email: regan.kuchan@aei.org

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