Saturday, August 7, 2010
THE BIOMETHANOL ECONOMY
As most of you know, I have a preference of methanol over ethanol, plug-in cars and hydrogen-powered vehicles. I would like to share a letter I sent to John Bockris (who coined the term, The Hydrogen Economy, but is now also partial to methanol) and Irvin Barash, a Manhattan venture capitalist for the sustainables. I don't think they will mind my showing my response to John's articulate case for methanol. You can write to him ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) if you wish to learn more about his current thinking in this field.
Dear John and Irvin:
Excellent summary, John (photo on left). You well-explained the case for biomethanol. I even liked your insertion of future magic as part of the planning equation.
Let me further add these compelling points:
1. Methanol is the ONLY liquid capable of reasonably efficiently being utilized by a fuel cell. Other liquid fuels need first to be processed through an expensive reformer.
2. In comparing a plug-in lithium battery car with one powered by a fuel cell, the latter will take the vehicle FIVE TIMES further. This is why the Direct Methanol Fuel Cell will someday replace batteries for all portable applications. Toshiba now markets this device. Unfortunately, the USDOE remains somewhat allergic to developing the DMFC for transport applications. I've blamed the Farm Lobby in the past, but there is more to this that I can't quite understand.
3. A gallon of methanol has MORE ACCESSIBLE HYDROGEN than a gallon of liquid hydrogen. In fact, 140% more.
It thus takes no particular vision to advance biomethanol as the mid-term replacement for gasoline, and a far better pathway through the rest of this century than a plug-in electric car, for the infrastructure is largely in place and economics seem sound. The only technology absent is the DMFC, so a Manhattan Project for this widget is the solution. Ultimately, the carbon for methanol will be absorbed from the atmosphere, but I think any commercial breakthrough is a century away. That's Irvin to the right.
Hydrogen might someday play a role, but that is many generations away, and might never make any sense for ground transportation. Hydrogen does have potential for sustainable aviation.
The question, then, is how to advance the biomethanol economy. Irvin, the ball is in your court.
There remain three storms in the Atlantic, but none of them pose any threat to land. Tropical Storm Estelle in the Pacific is up to 50 MPH, but not expected to strengthen much as she moves west: