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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Converting Transit to Methanol: Costs and Benefits for California's South Coast Air Basin


Methanol offers much promise as an alternative fuel whose combustion produces no sulfates and fewer nitrogen oxides and particulates than diesel. As another advantage, large quantities could be manufactured from domestic coal supplies. Believing that an extensive methanol program might well begin with public transit, we estimate the costs and benefits of converting the bus fleets of California's South Coast Air Basin to methanol. Benefits are based on the reduced mortality attributable to lower sulfates and particulates; costs encompass both bus conversion and replacement. Comparing these benefits with costs over a wide range of methanol prices, we find that conversion to methanol merits further consideration as an anti-pollution strategy. We propose to extend the analysis to additional potential benefits and costs, and to other locales and types of vehicles.

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