Methanol is another type of fuel source used in vehicles but has distinct properties that are different from ethanol. Methanol is also known as wood alcohol or methyl alcohol. It is a colorless liquid that is flammable but considered the simplest alcohol. That means that the process of converting raw materials such as coal, natural gas, and livestock waste material into methanol is easier than any other alcohol that exists. Because methanol is easier to convert from raw material into fuel, it can mean incredible savings for the consumer at the gas pump.
Another raw material that is converted into methanol is that methane gas that emits from garbage landfills throughout the country. Methane that comes from landfills, or “landfill gas” is not the same as natural gas and should not be used interchangeably. Methane actually has the potential to be a very dangerous hydrocarbon gas with explosive properties. Methane is created when materials decompose in swamps, the stomach of cows, and landfills. This “landfill” gas is composed of 40%-60% of methane with the balance of the gas made up of primarily of carbon dioxide and trace amounts of nitrogen, oxygen, water vapor, sulfur, and inorganic materials such as mercury.
Methane is referred to as a greenhouse gas by environmental scientists because it is 84 times more potent that carbon dioxide. When methane is allowed to leak into the environment through a leaky pipe or excessive amounts of landfill gas and comes in contact with the sun, it begins to act as a greenhouse gas. Although methane does not linger as long as carbon dioxide, it is considered to be more damaging to the environment because of how easily and quickly it interacts with the sun.
In addition to the hazardous impact methane may have on the environment, methane is incredibly toxic and should not be consumed by humans or animals. Methanol is used to make window cleaner, solvent, antifreeze, and is the main component in windshield wiper fluid. Although you shouldn’t drink methanol, race car drivers have been putting it into their fuel tanks for decades because it has a higher octane and a lower flashpoint when compared to traditional auto fuel sources such as gasoline. Methanol can safely be used in vehicles that also run on E85 but may cause corrosion if other materials such as aluminum or zinc are used.