History of Oil Industries Opposition to Alcohol Fuel
The fuel of the future, according to both Henry Ford and Charles F. Kettering, was ethyl alcohol made from farm products and cellulosic materials. Ford, of course, is well known as an automotive inventor; Kettering was the head of research at General Motors and a highly respected inventor in his own right.
Henry Ford's outspoken support for alcohol fuel culminated with the the Dearborn, Mich. "Chemurgy" conferences in the 1930s. Little is known about Kettering's interest in ethyl alcohol fuel and how it fit into G.M.'s long term strategy. Moreover, aside from the Chemurgy conferences and a brief period of commercial alcohol-gasoline sales in the Midwest during the 1930s, very little is known about the technological, economic and political context of alcohol fuels use. This paper examines that context, including the competition between lamp fuels in the 19th century; the scientific studies about alcohol as a fuel in the early 20th century; the development of "ethyl" leaded gasoline as a bridge to the "fuel of the future" in the 1920s; the worldwide use of alcohol - gasoline blends in the 1920s and 30s; and the eventual emergence of the farm "Chemurgy" movement and its support for alcohol fuel in the 1930s.