Assessing the Feasibility of Converting Commercial Vehicle Fleets To Use Methanol As an Offset in Urban Areas

PAD-82-39: Published: Jun 11, 1982. Publicly Released: Jul 12, 1982.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO explored the feasibility of converting commercial gasoline-powered vehicles to methanol as a potential means of offsetting hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen oxides in urban areas.

To explore the merits of a methanol offset strategy, GAO addressed questions such as: (1) whether an automobile which burns methanol pollutes less than one which burns gasoline; (2) the cost of converting and operating an automobile using methanol relative to the pollution abatement achieved; and (3) the cost of conversion to methanol compared with more conventional means of reducing air pollution. GAO found that methanol-powered vehicles emit less nitrogen oxides than gasoline-powered vehicles; however, for other regulated pollutants, the evidence is inconclusive. Depending on assumptions about current gasoline and methanol pump prices, as well as varying estimates of the amount of nitrogen oxide pollution reduction achieved using methanol, the costs of a methanol offset strategy involving the conversion of on-the-road automobiles could range from $20 per pound of nitrogen oxides abated to $760 per pound. GAO concluded that a methanol offset strategy does not currently appear to be economically attractive. Its costs do not compare favorably with the current costs of using more conventional methods of nitrogen oxide abatement.

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