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

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  • 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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