The greatest danger from the use of gasoline as a vehicle fuel is from fires. Gasoline fires in vehicles result in hundreds of deaths and millions of dollars in property damage each year. Methanol does not evaporate or form vapors as readily as gasoline does, and methanol vapors must be four times more concentrated in air than gasoline to ignite. Methanol burns 75% slower than gasoline, and methanol fires release heat at only one-eighth the rate of gasoline. Unlike gasoline fires, methanol fires can be extinguished with water. Methanol is inherently more difficult to ignite than gasoline, and much less likely to cause deadly or damaging car fires if it does ignite. The U.S. EPA has estimated that if all our cars were fueled with methanol, the incidence of vehicle fires would be reduced by 90%, saving hundreds of lives per year.
Methanol, like gasoline or diesel fuels, should never be ingested and is toxic. Deaths have been reported from intake of as little as 13 ml. of gasoline (less than one ounce), which is similar to the fatal ingestion range for methanol. Our bodies contain methanol naturally, and it is found in many parts of our diet, including fresh fruit, vegetables, and fermented foods and beverages. Both methanol and gasoline can be absorbed through human skin, and the response for both is the same: remove any contaminated clothing, and wash with soap and water. Spill-free methanol nozzles have been developed that will prevent a consumer from even being able to come into contact with methanol fuel. During California’s decade long methanol fuel program, there was not a single case of methanol poisoning from the operation of thousands of methanol vehicles traveling a cumulative 200 million miles. Similarly, over 200 million miles of methanol vehicle operation has been accumulated in China without a single reported case of methanol poisoning. Quite simply, we don’t drink our fuels.