Imágenes de páginas

Of the foregoing three considerations, the first named, that of the capacity in which by-product carbonization appears, is a connection too fully evident in the diagram itself to call for further comment. With reference to the second, the importance of the products to society, pages would be involved in any attempt to trace with anything like finality the influence of the various products specifically. The significance involved in the situation as a whole, however, is capable of expression in terms of a simple comparison. On the one side stands the chimney stack with its all too familiar contribution; on the other an elaboration of industry offering instead a veritable storehouse of treasure to the use of society; a storehouse affording essentials in agriculture, pharmacy, photography, textiles, disinfection, explosives, refrigeration, painting, paving, waterproofing, wood preservation, and an ever-widening circle of more specific requirements touching every aspect of human life. The magnitude of the contrast is precisely the measure of coal-product potentiality.

Another and more far-reaching significance attaches to the comparison, a significance in which the fundamental reason for the inadequacy of the country's coal-product developments may be recognized. The one, a direct hand-to-mouth economic procedure, is the attribute of a cruder stage of social evolution; the other, an elaborately involved adaptation, can come only as the outgrowth of refinement. The resources at hand awaiting employment in the past have exceeded in both magnitude and multiplicity the facilities available for their adequate utilization. The consequence has been toward preserving the cruder economic tendencies with expression in the form of dissociated opportunist industrial activities rather than toward the evolution of any true economic organism of coordinated industrial parts. Coal-product manufacture, with its elaboration of complex interrelationships calling for coordination of development along scores of directions at once highly specialized and widely diversified, represents the most advanced order of industrial evolution thus far attained. Amid the crudity characterizing the American economic system in the past such an establishment would have been as incongruous and as incapable of growth as a movement toward internationalism in the environment of the Dark Ages.

The dawning of economic consciousness in the progress of a civilization is marked by evidences of a hoarding instinct. So in the beJated evolution of the scheme of industrial life in America the past decade has manifested in the crude conceptions of conservation sporadic evidences of a similar stage with reference to the application of industry to the natural material resources of the country. Crude though these conceptions have been, to ridicule them in the light of existent conditions means failure to recognize in them a step in ad

vance toward a riper consciousness of national responsibilities in that conservation which, looking toward adequacy of employment rather than improvidence on the one hand or static hoarding on the other, seeks consistently to bring about the employment of the various means toward that end as they emerge from the channels of research. Vaguely an awakening consciousness in public opinion is coming to a discerning conception of some such national economics, but as in the conspicuous instance of the nitrogen situation, the response thus far has been spasmodic, uncomprehending, and expressed through media inadequately developed.

With the resources of a country constituting the opportunity opening to its people, it follows that enhancement in the value of a natural resource is bound to represent not merely increased dividends for a favored few, but, in the last analysis, an actual corresponding increment to genuine unrestricted opportunity. In this connection, with coal the country's greatest material heritage, the growth in its potentiality as yet ignored, furnishes a most impressive object lesson in resource administration. Twenty-five years ago the practicable potentiality recognized for the use of bituminous coal was approximately:

[blocks in formation]

Plate 10 gives the current expression of precisely the same situation. The two speak for themselves, offering a contrast of growth which challenges duplication elsewhere in the whole progress of civilization for a like period of time. Important enough in its specific fact of application to the country's dominant material resource, the full significance of the contrast opens out in proportion as it is seen to apply throughout the whole range of chemically conducted industries, whereby the raw resources of a country are being consumed in the saving or wasting of the multitudinous products essential to the ever-widening requirements of independent national existence.

There is a popular form of misconception which holds the impression that the source of a given commodity is immaterial so long as the needs with reference to that particular article by itself are met advantageously. Fifty years ago such an impression represented a reasonably accurate interpretation of existing conditions, but of recent years a totally different situation has been developing. The change has been brought about through the constantly widening circle of acquaintanceship being made by chemistry amongst the ingredients entering into material compositions, and has manifested

itself in the branching out of the opportunities open to industrial procedure. Twenty-five years ago a raw resource commonly lent itself to characterization as a commodity plus impurities; but to-day it offers instead a composite of ingredients, some recoverable to advantage under existing conditions, others not open to profitable recovery, but all possessing definite individual properties, open to employment in meeting the widening needs of civilized man. The term "waste" employed in designating the discards from industrial procedure is more than a name; it is a highly significant characterization. A very large numerical percentage, including even the more important commodities in current use, are of by-way derivation; and the rate at which their numbers increase marks the industrial progress of a people, for therein lie the greatest of all potentialities, not only for practicable resource conservation but for all-round economic efficiency as well.

The results of this broader conception find their expression in the extended application of methods for the recovery of these so-called by-products as soon as the requisite demand is created. In some instances a given by-product is recoverable by itself independently of its associates, but, in the nature of things, it more frequently happens that a whole series of by-products are linked together and they must find place for development as a group or remain as a group amongst the industrial outcasts, discarded under the classification of waste. Each of these groups, moreover, is inseparably connected with other similar ones, both providing ingredients essential to the others and dependent in turn upon the ingredients the others provide. Thus, from offering so many simple, direct, individually distinct lines of procedure, the conversion of a country's raw resources has come to constitute a vast industrial labyrinth of ramifying, interconnecting, and interdependent chemical procedures, the whole constituting the industrial fabric of the country, and, incidentally, the basis for what the individual has of material comfort and prosperity. The channels do not follow chance directions at random; in so far as they are opened up, they follow courses mapped far in advance by chemical research. Just in proportion as the opening up and maintenance of these channels of interdependence is provided for in accordance with the advances of chemical research, efficiency, conservation, and stability are assured to industrial development; and, conversely, just in the proportion that the necessary provisions are not looked to consistently as an obligation of fundamental importance to national existence, inefficiency, wastefulness, instability, and subservience are bound to remain characteristics in the industrial life of a country. America offers no exception.

Public opinion has of late been disposed to manifest a special degree of interest in speculating on the stability of the current indus

trial expansion within the United States, once world conditions have again been restored to normal. With industrial life as with other forms, static condition is impossible short of death. The question is not one of whether or not American industrial activity will be able to hold what it has, but that of whether or not it will continue to expand or presently begin to lapse. The expanding coal-product industry is the one most frequently mentioned in this connection. The answer is that a coal-product industry is not the outcome of vacillating chance.

The chance of current events has given rise to a special opportunity, a most extraordinarily auspicious one, in fact, but unless or until the employment of scientific guidance in the commercial following of the trails blazed by scientific exploration becomes an ingrained principle in the directorship of industry, both governmentally and privately, American industrial progress is bound to go astray and fail through inefficiency when exposed once more to the test of competition against the developments from consistent scientific guidance abroad, excepting where, as in the past, natural advantages of resource have been sufficiently great to overcome the handicap of miscontrol. Coal-product manufacture, despite the advantage of enormous resources, has not been able to make place for itself in this latter category.

The present opportunity is a passing one and one which, it is to be hoped, despite the advantages afforded, will not recur soon. To impart stability to the expansion it has given rise to, public opinion must recognize that what in the last analysis is best for the industries engaged in converting the resources of the country into usable form, is also in the last analysis best for the individual, and then act accordingly. Once that realization is fully established, and no clearer illustration of its truth could be desired than that afforded by the coal-product situation, the nature of the resultant action is foreordained. It will lie in the direction of scientific control of chemical industries. Lack of it has been the stumblingblock for American enterprise in the past, and continuance along the old lines of procedure implies a negative answer to the popular question as to whether expansion of the chemical industries in general, and the coal product one in particular, will continue toward an adequate realization of their enormous potentiality following the world's return to normal conditions. This means the relapse to a state of industrial instability, inefficiency, wastefulness, and subservience, a calamatous prospect when the magnitude of the opportunity at hand is considered. Hope looks toward the establishment of a definite economic policy giving the encouragement of an appreciative and understanding public support in the coordination of industrial development.

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]




This exhibit shows the successive chemical stages in the evolution of coal. The striking qualities of the original are lost in the reproduction through the use of designs in the place of realistic coloring, but the effect is retained sufficiently to indicate the nature of the sequence and the directness with which it leads back to an origin in vegetal accumulations. The evolutionary process is seen to take the form of increasing density through the progressive expulsion of volatilizable matters in the course of geologic time. This inference is substantiated beyond reasonable question by the actual presence of organic remains in coal beds.

« AnteriorContinuar »