Mandating ethanol and biodiesel consumption in the united kingdom
They complain about the lower energy density of methanol, but bring up ethanol and they will tell you all about the possibilities of designing engines to compensate for ethanol’s lower energy density relative to gasoline. They will talk about ethanol being pragmatic and practical, ignoring the fact that 1).Yet they don’t mention any possibility of optimizing engines for methanol. The energy return on the process is very low, hence practicality is enabled by low fossil fuel prices; 2).But methanol doesn’t have a big lobby and 42 senators from farm states it can count on for perpetual support.Ethanol opponents and/or gasoline proponents will point out the issue with ethanol’s 76,000 BTU/gal energy content versus gasoline’s 115,000 BTU/gal energy content.The “practicality” is only there because of heavy lobbying which led to very generous federal subsidies and mandates; 3).The vision of next generation practicality is because people sometimes make very wild extrapolations on costs for cellulosic ethanol (which we aren’t allowed to do with methanol, because after all, it isn’t practical).
After a series of complex steps, a very dilute solution of ethanol can be produced, which then must undergo an energy intensive distillation process.
Ethanol’s “pragmatism” is far more due to the fact that it has lobbying organizations like Growth Energy, The American Coalition for Ethanol, and the Renewable Fuels Association spending millions of dollars per year to constantly tell the public and the politicians how pragmatic ethanol is – which by the way we need to keep subsidizing and protecting with tariffs.
Methanol doesn’t have that advantage, thus it is “impractical.” Let’s address some of the silliness right now.
When they argue about methanol’s toxicity, ask them about the last time they drank denatured ethanol or gasoline (or how many people are impacted each year by alcoholism).
When they point out that subsidized ethanol is becoming more competitive with gasoline, ask them if they have priced unsubsidized methanol lately. Their solution is good, and yours is bad even if it shares the same qualities as theirs.