The Ethanol Papers - Paperturn manuscript - Flipbook - Page 38
found for the sticky, smelly black goo that freely seeped up from the ground in
Pennsylvania (areas of Poland and Azerbaijan experienced the same phenomena). This was the start of the petroleum oil boom. Although kerosene has an
obnoxious smell and black smoke, at least it was cheap.
As the world’s interest in the new-fangled automobiles soared throughout the
world it was found that the kerosene could be used as the basis for engine fuel,
and after additional refining the oil pioneers developed gasoline. By this time
one man and his company rose to worldwide prominence – John D. Rockefeller
and Standard Oil. His enormous wealth was contingent upon oil and its byproducts, and in the time-honored tradition of achieving wealth, he used it to
secure political and commercial support of his products.
The political bribes paid by Rockefeller catapulted support for the 18th Amendment to the Constitution (the Volstead Act) over the top, insuring its passage.
This Amendment, commonly referred to as Prohibition, outlawed the production
of alcohol with almost no exceptions. Consequently, in the crucial period just
after World War I, as Americans were adopting a whole new mobile lifestyle,
the one fuel that could challenge Rockefeller’s gasoline on both a cost and performance basis – alcohol – was declared illegal. Ethanol was rendered dead as
a competitor on the commercial battlefield.
Before and during Prohibition, Henry Ford expressed his belief that alcohol (ethanol) was the fuel of the future. His Model T, the product that is said to have
given birth to moving assembly line production, was designed and built to use
ethanol or gasoline by giving the driver-adjustable carburetor and spark advance controls that optimized the performance of the fuel used.
Even after Prohibition commenced, General Motors’s top
scientists, Charles F. Kettering, Thomas A. Midgley, and
T.A. Boyd, continued their belief that ethanol was the fuel
of the future. Considering that it was illegal to even produce
the small amounts to conduct tests, alcohol was still being
experimented with as the best alternative solution to gasoline’s knock problem.
However, in 1921, GM’s scientists discovered that by adding tetra-ethyl lead to
gasoline that the knock was subdued and the new lead-gasoline fuel could be
used in advanced higher compression engines. This was the early days of the
Roaring Twenties and in order to really roar, the public needed a fuel to set