Compressed-natural-gas vehicles and electric vehicles — one-third of U.S. electricity is currently generated from natural gas — are slowly making their way into the marketplace. But battery-powered cars remain prohibitively expensive for most car buyers. A natural gas-derived liquid fuel called methanol (wood alcohol), however, is both substantially less expensive than gasoline on a per-mile basis and very cheap to enable on the vehicle side — roughly $100 extra per new car.
Essentially, all that is needed for a regular car to be a flexible-fuel car are a fuel sensor and a corrosion-resistant fuel line. In some provinces of China, where methanol is made primarily from coal, this alcohol is sold at numerous fuel stations. This logic is one thing even Iran and Israel can agree on: Both natural gas-rich countries have plans to begin selling methanol-based fuel at gas stations.
I believe that the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy is going to be a very incremental process. The infrastructure just isn’t there to switch from coal and natural gas to solar and wind and the myriad other renewable options in even a few years. Washington isn’t willing to spend the money to make it happen faster. If we can switch from gasoline to natural gas-based methanol in a few years and save drivers money at the pump and not have to subsidize anything, I’m willing to accept not reducing carbon as quickly as we’d like.