Washington, DC – On Tuesday, MI and its partners, the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security (IAGS) and the U.S. Energy Security Council (USESC) held the second Washington Methanol Policy Forum on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. As with the first forum, held in 2012, the 2014 Methanol Policy Forum was a great success. Over 160 attendees from around the world came together with industry CEO’s, federal agency employees and other interested parties. The full-day event featured three panel discussions, a special luncheon discussion with the U.S. Energy Security Council and a roundtable discussion on the prospects for methanol fuels in the United States. Panel topics ranged from the resurgence of the domestic methanol industry, to methanol fuel blending, and the path to unlocking our vehicles to methanol fuel.
Reports from the assembled CEO’s made clear methanol’s strong resurgence in the U.S. As Methanex CEO John Floren noted in his remarks, Methanex is dismantling two plants in Chile, and reassembling them in the U.S.. Floren went on to state that “We expect a lot of new plants to be built here in the U.S.” OCI CEO Nassef Sawiris noted that OCI subsidiary Natgasoline LLC was breaking ground this week on a new 1.75 million ton per year greenfield methanol plant in Beaumont, Texas.
MI’s Greg Dolan noted, in welcoming remarks, that “We are gathered here in Washington again to mark the renewed interest we are seeing in the United States for the use of methanol as a transportation fuel.”
Many speakers throughout the day echoed Dolan’s sentiments. Mike Jackson, research director at MI’s newest member the Fuel Freedom Foundation (FFF), told the assembled group that for a gasoline substitute or major gasoline blending component to thrive, it must have a low cost for vehicle manufacturing or conversion and a low cost at the pump, “and methanol is potentially a fuel that can do that.” He went on to state that “We think methanol has a quicker path to commercialization” than other alternative fuels.
Matt Brusstar, deputy director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory discussed his agency’s long history of methanol advocacy, dating back to the 1980’s when the agency’s Charles Gray published “Moving America to Methanol.” He also spoke of the agency’s current focus on heavy duty engines and technology for methanol diesel blends, noting that “There are very few barriers right now to introducing the technology.”
The lunch discussion with the U.S. Energy Security Council, which is made up of the top echelons of Washington’s policy circles, was a highlight of the day. Former cabinet members, senators and former energy industry CEO’s all participated in a roundtable discussion that focused on improving energy security through fuel choice. John Hofmeister, founder of Citizens for Affordable Energy and former President of Shell Oil Company from 2005 to 2008 noted that using methanol as a vehicle fuel would reduce U.S. reliance on imported oil and offer a hedge against oil price shocks that raise gasoline prices. Hofmeister also pointed out that increased lobbying of lawmakers on Capitol Hill was needed if methanol was to compete successfully against other alternative fuels, saying “It would help if people on the Hill understood the value to the consumer and the importance in the fuel mix.” As Gal Luft, co-director of the IAGS noted in his remarks, the ethanol industry outspent the methanol industry on lobbying by a 50 to 1 margin in 2013.
All speaker presentations from the conference are available at the newly launched www.MethanolFuels.org website under Public Policy > U.S. & The Americas, or directly by clicking here. As soon as available, event video will also be posted on this page.