A tri-partisan bill principally sponsored by Senators Sam Brownback (R-KS), Ken Salazar (D-CO) and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) (S.3303) and Representatives Eliot Engel (D-NY-17), Jack Kingston (R-GA-1), Steve Israel (D-NY-2), and Bob Inglis (R-SC-4) (H.R.6559) would require that starting in 2012, 50% of new automobiles; and starting in 2015, 80% of new automobiles, be flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs) that can operate with gasoline blends up to E85 (85%) ethanol or M85 (85% methanol), or be warranted to operate on biodiesel.
The alternative fuels can be made from a variety of sources, including switchgrass and other energy crops, coal, agricultural bi-products, corn, soybeans, natural gas and other materials.
The Methanol Institute, the trade association for the methanol industry, rapidly endorsed the bills.
In the 1980s and 1990s, more than 20,000 methanol (M-85) FFVs were introduced. For the week ending 4 July methanol wholesale spot prices were $1.32 per gallon. Adding distribution costs, state and federal taxes, and retailer markup still leaves a pump price of $1.70 per gallon. After accounting for methanol’s lower energy content than gasoline, the effective price for the consumer filling up with methanol is just $2.22 per gallon.
This year, the US will consume more than 2.2 billion gallons of methanol largely for chemical commodities markets, according to the Methanol Institute. On a global basis, methanol consumption is roughly 13 billion gallons per year, equivalent to the global supply of fuel ethanol. Most methanol is currently produced from natural gas, with much of the US supply coming from Trinidad.