Chemist Surya Prakash says Iceland is better suited to be fuel self-sufficient than any other nation, with an Icelandic company planning to produce 80 million liters of methanol annually.
"Icelanders live in such ideal conditions to easily become fuel sustainable,'' says Surya Prakash, Professor of Chemistry at the University of Southern California and CEO of the Loker Institute of Carbon.
"Iceland is better suited to use exclusively renewable energy than any other nation,'' he adds. "You have the geothermal heat, access to water, large geographical areas and you are a highly educated nation with small population. It´s perfectly reasonable for Icelanders to set the goal of exclusively using renewable fuel for both the car and fishing vessel fleet. The problem in Iceland is that the regulations prevent you from being able to achieve this.''
Prakash is the author of the book The Methanol Economy which deals with fuels of the future. His opinion is that it is not just Icelanders who ignore the possibilities that natural resources have to offer. Such oversight, he says, causes increasing pollution and less sustainability. "Every nation should aim to become fuel self-sufficient. Just look at what is happening in America; there, a gallon of oil costs four dollars but once it has been taxed it becomes eight dollars. The reason for this is the high cost of protecting oil resources in the Middle-East."
Benedikt Stefánsson, Manager of Business Development at Carbon Recycling International (CRI) which operates the only methanol plant in the country at Svartsengi in Grindavík, says present regulations do not assume higher than 3% methanol mixed with gasoline. Iceland, however, is committed to increasing the country's fuel consumption coming from renewable fuels to 10% by the year 2020. Changes are being made in this regard and Benedikt is hopeful these changes will be a step in the right direction.
It is possible to produce 5 million liters of methanol in the Svartsengi plant. "We have also been exploring the possibility of producing 40 to 80 million liters from waste,'' he says. "Additionally, it´s possible to produce much more with electricity. Indeed, there are already projects in place in the energy sector which could allow us to produce fuel to meet the total demand." The fuel consumption of the entire car population is around 350 million liters annually.