Chemist Matthew Kanan of Stanford University says he can make ethanol from methane, using electrodes immersed in water.
But it will be two years until he can build a prototype to test what he says has worked in the laboratory. His work is published in the scientific journal Nature.
If it works and isn’t too costly, it could replace corn and biomass distilleries making ethanol.
The Canadian and U.S. governments force the gasoline industry to blend at least five per cent ethanol into gasoline.
The government mandates are built on the belief that ethanol from corn or biomass contributes less greenhouse gases to warm the climate.
That belief has been challenged by some who say growing and marketing corn requires a lot of energy that is polluting.
Kanan’s discovery could prove to be far more beneficial in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.