History of BioFuel

Agrol 10% ethanol goes on sale at a James service station in Lincoln, Nebraska in 1938. (Courtesy Nebraska Historical Society)

Biofuels:  Back to the Fuel of the Future
by William Kovarik, Ph.D.
March 15, 2007

Fueling up with ethanol and vegetable oils  was common long before the development of the internal combustion engine. Vegetable and animal oil lamps have been used since the dawn of civilization. Increasingly efficient heaters and lamps meant that higher quality fuels were developed.  For example, small alcohol stoves (also called “spirit lamps”) were commonly used by travelers in the 17th century to warm food and themselves. One of Ben Franklin’s spirit lamps is on display in a Philadelphia exhibit.

Naturally, early inventors turned to common portable fuels to power automobiles.  In 1826,  Vermont inventor  Samuel Morey powered an early prototype of an internal combustion engine with distilled spirit.   German engineer Nicholas Otto’s first experiments in the 1860s with engines involved ethanol as well.

Around the 1850s, lamp fuels in the US and Europe were usually made from animal and vegetable oils, often combined with alcohol.  “Camphene” (a camphor oil scented blend of turpentine and ethanol) was by far the leading fuel in the US with at least 90 million gallons sold per year.[14] But a tax on all alcohol in the US, including industrial alcohol for lamps, meant that other sources of illuminants were needed.  The kerosene industry arose as a direct result of this tax on its competitor — and not because whales were running out, as the “whale oil” myth would have it. “Kerosene” was named as the solar (keros) fuel in imitation of  “camphene.” The highly volatile byproduct, called “gasoline” in the hope it would be used in municipal gas light systems, was usually blended unsafely into lamp fuels, or just poured into streams or burned off. 

Gasoline abundant in the US

Because gasoline was so cheap and abundant, US automobiles were adapted to its use from the beginning. Racing cars, on the other hand, usually used ethanol (and other alcohols) because more power could be developed in a smaller, lighter engine.  In 1906, Henry Ford told newspapers he was working on an alcohol fueled car and tractor.   He stuck with the idea throughout his life because he believed that America’s morals were declining with the loss of rural lifestyles. He hoped to stimulate the farm economy by finding new markets for farm products and in the process contribute to the agrarian culture he cherished.

Also in 1906, Teddy Roosevelt backed the farm lobby’s push to have the tax on industrial alcohol repealed, saying that the oil industry needed the competition:   “The Standard Oil Company has, largely by unfair or unlawful methods, crushed out home competition.  … It is highly desirable that an element of competition should be introduced by the passage of some such law as that which has already passed in the House, putting alcohol used in the arts and manufacturers upon the [tax] free list.”

But the hoped–for revolution was not to be. Gasoline prices stayed relatively low.  Farm belt politicians were split on ethanol as a fuel when it came to alcohol beverage Prohibition (at both state and, eventually, federal levels).   While distillers could have a new market for their alcohol, some thought that allowing any distillery to stay open would be a “bargain with the devil.” 

Meanwhile, automobiles were improving quickly in the era around WWI, but the fuel was not. By 1909, the model T had a 4.5 to 1 compression ratio and about 20 horsepower and was capable of speeds of about 40 miles per hour.  Although it was possible to increase the size of the engine to get more horsepower, it was not possible to increase the compression ratio of the engine, since it would knock (pre-detonate) and damage the engine.  At the time, gasoline had what we now call an “octane” rating in the 50s, but it was well known that blends of ethanol in gasoline could stop knocking in higher  compression engines.          

However, ethanol had only two thirds of the energy of gasoline. In a battery of government tests at the 1907 Jamestown Exhibition, the USDA and the Bureau of Mines demonstrated that ethanol engines consumed as much fuel, at higher compression ratios, than lower compression gasoline engines under equivalent loads. This BTU efficiency question still crops up in debates about ethanol today, even though it was settled a century ago.    

Post WWI automotive research

At the end of WWI, gasoline quality was declining, and Detroit dropped the standard compression ratio to 3.8 to one. According to Scientific American in 1919, there were to options. One, lower the compression ratio even further, sacrificing efficiency but allowing the continued use of low-grade petroleum.  Or two, use more ethanol in the fuel mix in order to conserve petroleum and allow the creation of more efficient, higher compression engines.  The choice was further skewed in the direction of ethanol when the US Geological Survey announced, in 1920, that oil was running out.[20]

This had already been anticipated by leading scientists. In 1900, Rudolph Diesel ran his engine on peanut oil at a Paris exhibition. Talking about this in 1912, Diesel said: “The use of vegetable oils for engine fuels may seem insignificant today, but such oils may become, in the course of time, as important as petroleum…”  And Alexander Graham Bell said in 1917: “Alcohol makes a beautiful, clean and efficient fuel…
Alcohol can be manufactured from corn stalks, and in fact from almost any vegetable matter capable of fermentation… We need never fear the exhaustion of our present fuel supplies so long as we can produce an annual crop of alcohol to any extent desired.”

Most automotive inventors focused on ethanol as the solution, but a total replacement of oil with corn ethanol was seen as impractical at the time. A 1919 DuPont study showed that it would take half or more of all grain and sugar crops to replace oil.   Charles Kettering at General Motors had focused on another solution – tetra ethyl lead. The idea was to find a temporary additive to allow an increase in compression ratios until ethanol could be produced from cellulose. Kettering sent two of his best researchers to study cellulose hydrolysis with Harold Hibbert at Yale University in 1920.

Hibbert was a visionary, and pointed out that the 1920 USGS  oil reserve report had serious implications for his work. “Does the average citizen understand what this means?” he asked. “In from 10 to 20 years this country will be dependent entirely upon outside sources for a supply of liquid fuels… paying out vast sums yearly in order to obtain supplies of crude oil from Mexico, Russia  and Persia.”  But the chemist might be able to solve the problem, Hibbert said, by working on abundant cellulose waste from farm crops, timber operations and seaweed as a source of ethyl alcohol. 

Leaded gasoline in the 1920s

For complex internal reasons, GM research turned away from cellulose and towards fuel additives that might have more immediate profit potential.   By 1921 they hit on leaded gasoline. Although it was extremely toxic in the lab, in production, in service stations and on the streets, Kettering justified the continued sale of leaded gasoline to fellow scientists as only a temporary bridged to the fuel of the future, which was, “unquestionably,” ethanol.   The fact that the leaded gasoline marketing company created as a joint venture between GM, Standard Oil and DuPont was called “Ethyl” might well have been Kettering’s inside joke about the overall direction he thought the industry would take. Publicly, Kettering and associates insisted that there were no alternatives, but even a glance at the public record of patents taken out by GM or articles by GM staff would have shown this to be untrue.

As it turned out, leaded gasoline was profitable enough to take over the market, and the oil industry was powerful enough to scare away most of the competition. There were several notable exceptions, including the US farm ethanol and Henry Ford’s “chemurgy” movement of the 1930s that culminated with the “Agrol” ethanol fuel plant that ran from 1936 to 1939 at Atchison, Kansas. The plant went bankrupt, but the experience had a significant impact on ethanol plant engineering designs and systems engineering at the opening of World War II, when ethanol was desperately needed as a feedstock for synthetic rubber. While most of the investments were placed in petroleum-based systems, the agriculturally based systems proved easier to scale up and expand. By 1944, three-quarters of the tires and other rubber products were coming from ethanol.

Motivations for biofuels programs in the 1930s

It is interesting that most of the support for farm ethanol came from grain-state Republicans and not liberals; the conservatives tended to prefer the idea of finding new markets for surplus crops to the liberal approach involving farm set-asides and crop reduction programs. The new markets idea had an appeal to the optimistic Midwestern mind-set, which was well expressed by Ford in a1925 interview with the New York Times: 

 “The fuel of the future is going to come from fruit like that sumac out by the road, or from apples, weeds, sawdust — almost anything,” he said. “There is fuel in every bit of vegetable matter that can be fermented. There’s enough alcohol in one year’s yield of an acre of potatoes to drive the machinery necessary to cultivate the fields for a hundred years.”

As Ford knew, nearly all other industrial nations had an ethanol blending program at the time. These included Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and most of Eastern Europe and Latin America. 

Three basic motivations were apparent in Europe and other nations: 

o      National Security – Countries without oil supplies of their own justified tax support or mandatory blending programs as providing an emergency fuel source. 

o      Farm support – Countries with agricultural surplus justified ethanol programs as helping stabilize the farm economy. 

o      Alternative anti-knock additives – This motivation existed but was often hidden, as the US industry had undermined all international public health objections to leaded gasoline by creating a parallel scientific establishment to maintain hegemony.

Post WWII biofuels industries

Following World War II, the idea of continuing to use the distilleries for chemicals and fuels was popular in the Midwest, but a commission report in 1957 concluded that ethanol could not compete with cheap petroleum.  Midwestern universities and state economic development agencies continued to explore the industrial use of farm products in general, and ethanol in particular, in the 1960s and early 1970s. For instance, the Nebraska Agricultural Products Industrial Utilization Committee was formed in 1971, and by the mid-1970s became popularly known as the Nebraska Gasohol Commission. 

With the oil shocks of 1973 and 1979, a considerable amount of public interest followed the development of oil alternatives. Biofuels were not originally at the top of the list. At one point in 1978, US Dept. of Energy officials were using the line that the US had only coal, oil and nuclear power.  The oil and automotive industries were equally resistant to developing biofuels and published research that was sometimes described as “defensive.”

This was consistent with an observation made by S.J. Pleeth in 1949:

“The bias aroused by the use of alcohol as a motor fuel has produced [research] results that are incompatible with each other … Countries with considerable oil deposits — such as the US — or which control oil deposits of other lands — such as Holland — tend to produce reports antithetical to the use of fuels alternative to petrol; countries with little or no indigenous oil tend to produce favorable reports. The contrast …  is most marked. One can scarcely avoid the conclusion that the results arrived at are those best suited to the political or economic aims of the country concerned or the industry sponsoring the research. We deplore this partisan use of science, while admitting its existence, even in the present writer.”

For political and national security reasons, the Carter administration pushed ahead with an ethanol program. Federal and state subsidies were applied towards alternative fuels, particularly ethanol. These amounted to about $11 billion between 1979 and 2000, as compared to about $150 billion in tax credits for the oil industry (from 1968 –  2000), according to the General Accounting Office.

The replacement of oil with ethanol was controversial in the 1980s for several reasons, not the least of which was that the ethanol industry was dominated by one well connected company – Archer Daniels Midland of Peoria, Ill. The Reagan administration also questioned the need for government intervention, believing that most energy and environmental decisions were best left to the marketplace.  The George H.W. Bush administration, on the other hand, sharply distinguished itself from Reagan era environmental policies by forcing the oil industry to clean up “air toxics” in gasoline. Ethanol was one part of that strategy, and the oil industry’s use of MTBE instead of ethanol created water pollution problems in many cities.[33] When MTBE pollution problems were recognized in the early 2000s, ethanol use shot up to the 4 billion gallon level.  A few years later, the oil price shock of 2004-2005 created an unusual market condition in which ethanol was priced lower than gasoline. Hundreds of new corn based distilleries were planned, for at least a doubling of the industry to 8 billion gallons per year by around 2008.  

It was clear, then, that the US would go back to the “fuel of the future.” 

Framing Biofuels issues — then and now  

An understanding of the history of biofuels can help overcome some of the confusion surrounding the ethanol industry’s origins and original purpose. Modern scientists and policy makers often evaluate the US corn based ethanol industry only in terms of climate change and energy balance, when in fact, the corn based ethanol industry is a cumulative response to  many decades of concern about national security, air pollution, and agricultural economics.

Efficiency: One of the earliest controversies about biofuels had to do with the difference in energy content (in terms of BTUs per gallon) between ethanol and gasoline. Even today, its not unusual to hear the opinion that gas tanks would have to be twice as large for all-ethanol autos.  In 1907 and 1908, the U.S. Geological Service and the U.S. Navy performed 2000 tests on alcohol and gasoline engines in 1907 and 1908 in Norfolk, Va. and St. Louis, Mo. They found that much higher efficiencies could be achieved with engines adapted for alcohol fuel compared to gasoline engines.[34] This would offset the disadvantage of the lower BTU ethanol as a fuel.

Pollution: Occasionally the idea surfaces that ethanol is more polluting than gasoline, but usually this refers only to evaporative emissions and not overall emissions. In fact, biofuels have long been known as extremely clean fuels compared with petroleum based fuels.  For instance, in 1907, the USGS said: “In regard to general cleanliness, such as absence of smoke and disagreeable odors, alcohol has many advantages over gasoline or kerosene as a fuel… The exhaust from an alcohol engine is never clouded with a black or grayish smoke.”  Overall, alcohol was “a more ideal fuel than gasoline” despite the higher cost.

Anti-knock additives: It has long been difficult to refine gasoline beyond a certain level of octane (anti-knock) rating. Before the invention of catalytic cracking, the number was in the high 50s and low 60s; today it is in the low to mid- 80s, depending on the base petroleum.  Since ethanol has an octane rating of 110, blends of 15 to 20 percent ethanol with gasoline helped boost octane in the early years of the automobile industry, especially in Europe and Latin America.  In the 1920s, when leaded gasoline went on sale, public health scientists from Harvard and Yale insisted it was a grave danger to health and that other alternatives were available.  When lead was phased out of gasoline in the US in the 1970s and 80s, it was replaced by benzene, also an anti-knock additive but a known carcinogen. The push to remove “air toxics” in the 1990s by reformulating gasoline was a push to get rid of benzene. MTBE and ethanol were the two remaining anti-knock additives, and MTBE has been banned as a water pollutant.  Ethanol was the cleanest alternative available.

            National Security: Just as Teddy Roosevelt was unhappy with Standard Oil in the US, Germany’s Kaiser was said to be “enraged” at the oil trust there a century ago.  The launching of the alcohol industry in Germany was specifically linked to concern for national security. The same concern can easily be found in a dozen other nations and times. Perhaps the most famous statement along these lines is Francis P. Garvan’s speech at Henry Ford’s “chemurgy” conference in Dearborn, Mich. in 1936. “They say we have foreign oil,” Garvan said. “It is … in Persia, and it is in Russia. Do you think that is much defense for your children?”

            Farm programs:  In Europe, the use of ethanol as a fuel was specifically linked to support for the farm infrastructure. Around 1901, France had a drop in sugar beet exports and rising surplus of many other crops.[39] Similarly, the world’s oldest continuous ethanol program, begun in Brazil in 1931, was designed to take surplus sugar off the export market while avoiding the expense of imports.   And creating new markets for farm products was a constant preoccupation of US grain-state politicians from the early part of the century to today.  On the other hand, the main thrust of the oil industry’s opposition to ethanol in the 1930s was to attack it as robbing motorists to enrich only a few farmers.  

            Economics:  Ethanol from farm products was usually 30 to 50 percent more expensive that gasoline in the US, but the difference in terms of a finished fuel at the pump was rarely more than one or two cents per gallon. Those few pennies difference in the US meant bankruptcy for several of the early ethanol pioneers, and the experience showed the necessity of ethanol tax incentive in the US in the 1970s.  Using a broader basis of economic comparison,  external costs are very much lower with ethanol than most other fuels.  For example, the health impacts of leaded gasoline included up to 5,000 premature deaths in the US alone at the height of its use in the 1970s.  Similar incentives had been in place, usually in the neighborhood of a few cents per gallon, in most industrial nations in the 1920 – 1940 time frame.  The cost of ethanol as an octane booster is highly competitive, especially in developing nations.

            Food or fuel: There are several historical frames for this analysis. Amid the gloomy predictions over oil depletion around 1919, DuPont and GM engineers how much of the grain and sugar crop would be consumed if the country were to switch to ethanol. Their answer was 50 to 60 percent of the crop, which they deemed unacceptable.   However, the frame of analysis in this case may have been more appropriately considered as a 10 to 20 percent replacement for anti-knock purposes, in which case five to 12 percent of the crop would have been used – an amount that could have been more than acceptable in times of farm surplus.

Generally speaking, concern that food production would be sacrificed to fuel needs was not evident in Europe or the US in the 1900 – 1930 period. In fact, absorbing some of the grain surplus was the main idea behind the farmers’ push for ethanol. During the 1940s and 50s, some countries (notably India) used alcohol from molasses for fuel, but only in limited amounts with the caveat that they not derive from food products. “In India, with its scarcity of food … root crops and cereals cannot be used for producing power alcohol,” said one UN delegate in 1952. Only molasses unfit for human consumption was allowed.

In the 1970s, as ethanol programs began taking off worldwide, concerns were raised by agricultural experts, notably Lester Brown, about competition from the energy sector for food resources.  It is not a simple concern. Brown and others are aware that corn is not entirely used up in ethanol production, (only the starch is used, leaving the original protein value of the grain). But the competition may also come in the form of pressures on the agricultural infrastructure and economic competition for food resources, Brown notes.    Debate continues to involve questions about the complexity of small farm economies in developing nations and the impact of dependency on US grain aid.

Energy Balance:  One of the most recent controversies goes to the heart of whether ethanol is a renewable fuel or not. Does it take more energy to produce ethanol than it actually contains?  The controversy originally surfaced in the 1970s and originally involved the question of whether a negative energy balance fuel would actually offset oil imports. Some distillers said at the time that the energy balance problem made ethanol a net negative energy product. Ethanol “simply does not have a prayer of . . . success until all fossil fuels in this country and around the world are practically depleted,” said one beverage alcohol producer.  However, beverage distilleries used far more energy than modern biorefineries, mostly to purify alcohol for beverage purposes.  A comparison of studies by the University of California at Berkeley shows how different scientists arrived at different conclusions.   There is also a significant discussion on the appropriate starting points and parameters for the debate. 


Many of the old controversies have been resolved on the scientific and engineering level, but many more remain.

The first generation of biofuels, notably ethanol from corn in the US and from sugarcane in Brazil, have been available for well over a century. The motivation for using these fuels, despite slightly higher prices, involved national security, farm support, environmental and public health considerations. Some of the recurring issues have involved “food or fuel” and energy balance.  

The idea of moving to a second generation of biofuels, from cellulose and sawdust and other non-food feedstocks, has also been in development since at least the 1920s. This also shows that many of the problems we face in terms of developing a viable renewable energy system have been anticipated in history.   

 Thucydides, The complete writings of Thucydides [and] The Peloponnesian war, (NY: Modern Library, 1951), written 440 BC. 

 William (Bill) Kovarik, “Heroic Myths and Tetra-Ethyl Lead,” Chemcases.com, on the web at http://www.radford.edu/wkovarik/ethylwar/heroic.myths.html Other related papers by the author include: Henry Ford, Charles Kettering and the Fuel of the Future, Society of Automotive Historians, 1998; Also Ethyl: The 1920s Environmental Conflict Over Leaded Gasoline and Alternative Fuels, Paper to the American Society for Environmental History, March 26-30, 2003 Providence, R.I.; Also, Ethyl leaded gasoline:  How a classic occupational disease became an international public health disaster,” International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, October 2005; Also, Ethanol’s first century: Blending programs in Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America, paper to the 30th International Symposium on Alcohol Fuel, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, November 2006.

 Personal communication, Howard Zinn, 1992. 

Muller, Philip R. “Look Back Without Anger: A Reappraisal of William A. Dunning”. Journal of American History 1974 61(2): 325–338.

 This myth is found in virtually every history of the petroleum industry in the 20th century, from Ida Tarbell’s History of the Standard Oil Co. (New York, Macmillan, 1906) to Daniel Yergin’s  The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power  (NY: Simon & Schuster, 1991). Economic advisors to President Ronald Reagan used this myth very effectively in dismantling non-traditional federal energy research programs in the 1980s.

 Louis Mumford, Technics and Civilization,(New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1932).

 Stuart Leslie, Boss Kettering (New York: Columbia University Press, 1983).

 For the claims, see U.S. Public Health Service, Proceedings of a Conference to Determine Whether or Not There is a Public Health Question in the Manufacture, Distribution or use of Tetraethyl Lead Gasoline, PHS Bulletin No. 158, (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Treasury Dept., August 1925).  For uncritical histories, see Joseph C. Robert, Ethyl: A History of the Corporation and the People Who Made It (Charlottesville, Va.: University Press of Virginia, 1983); Thomas P. Hughes, “Inventors: The Problems They Choose, The Ideas They Have and the Inventions They Make,” in eds., Patrick Kelly, et al., Technological Innovation: A Critical Review of Current Knowledge (San Francisco, San Francisco Press, Inc., 1979); T.A. Boyd, Professional Amateur (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1957); also Rosamond Young, Boss Ket (New York: Longmans, Green & Co., 1961).

 For example, patents in Chemical Abstracts. See Application Serial No. 210,687 filed Jan, 7, 1918; Patent No. 1,296,832 issued Mar. 11, 1919, assigned to GM Research Corp.; Also, Chemical Abstracts 13,  (1919), p. 1636; and Patent application  Serial No. 256,874, filed Oct. 4, 1918, Patent No. 1,491,998 issued April 29, 1924.

 Some 152 popular and scholarly articles under the heading “Alcohol as a Fuel” can be found the Readers Guide to Periodical Literature  between 1900 and 1921; about 20 references to papers and books written before 1925 are found in the Library of Congress card catalog;  a 1933 Chemical Foundation report lists 52 references before 1925 on alcohol fuels; a 1944 Senate report lists 24 USDA publications on alcohol fuels before 1920; and several technical books from the period document hundreds of additional references from the 1900 – 1925 period.

 Benjamin Franklin online exhibit, Library Company of Philadelphia, accessed on the Web in Feb., 2007 at: http://www.benfranklin300.org/

 Horst Hardenberg, “Samuel Morey and his Atmospheric Engine” SP 922, (Warrendale, Pa.: SAE, Feb. 1992), p. 51.

 Lyle Cummins, Internal Fire (Warrenton, Pa.: Society of Automotive Engineers, 1989).

 U.S. House of Representatives,  Free Alcohol Hearings, House Ways & Means Committee, 59th Congress, Feb.-Mar. 1906.

 With the Automobilists,” Washington Post, May 22, 1906, p.8.

 Raymond Millard Wik, “Henry Ford’s Science and Technology for Rural America,” Technology and Culture, Summer  1963.  Also, Hal Bernton, William Kovarik, Scott Sklar, The Forbidden Fuel (New York: W.B. Griffin, 1982).

 Washington Post, May 5, 1906, p. 1.

 Personal communication, Leroy Watson, National Grange. Also see “Big Concerns Back Reciprocity Fight,” New York Times, June 1, 1911, p. 6 and “Alcohol in place of oil,” Washington Post, Nov. 10, 1908, p. 9. 

 U.S. Dept. of Interior, Robert M. Strong, “Commercial Deductions from Comparisons of Gasoline and Alcohol Tests on Internal Combustion Engines,”   U.S. Geological Survey, Bulletin 392, (Washington: GPO, 1909). U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, C.E. Lucke, Columbia University, and S.M. Woodward, U.S.DA, “The Use of Alcohol and Gasoline in Farm Engines,” U.S.D.A. Farmers Bulletin No. 277, (Washington: GPO, 1907).

 “Asserts Americans face oil shortage,” New York Times, May 3, 1920, p. 22.

 W. Robert Nitske and  Charles Wilson, Rudolph Diesel, Pioneer of the Age of Power (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1965), p. 210. This discussion took place in an April 13, 1912 speech in St. Louis, Mo.   

 Alexander Graham Bell, National Geographic, Vol. 31, Feb. 1917, p. 131.

 This DuPont study has apparently been lost, but is referenced in T. A. Boyd, The Early History of Ethyl Gasoline, Report OC-83, Project # 11-3, Research Laboratory Division, GM Corp., Detroit Michigan, (unpublished) June 8, 1943, GMI, Kettering University, p. 54.

 Harold Hibbert, “The Role of the Chemist in Relation to the Future Supply of Liquid Fuel,”  Journal of Industrial and Chemical Engineering  13, No. 9 (Sept. 1921) p. 841.  Cellulose hydrolysis research continued throughout the 20th century, mostly  for chemical feedstock development as well as possible fuel use. See, for example, Elmer Gaden, ed., Enzymatic Conversion of Cellulose Materials: Technology and Applications, (New York: Wiley Interscience, 1976).

 Kovarik, “The Ethyl Controversy,” Ph.D. Dissertation.

 Thomas A. Midgley to Charles Kettering, May 23, 1922, General Motors Archives, Kettering University, Flynt, Mich.).

 U.S. Tariff Commission, Industrial Alcohol, War Changes in Industry Series, Report No. 2, (Washington, GPO: Jan. 1944).

 “Ford Predicts Fuel from Vegetation,” New York Times, Sept. 20, 1925, p. 24.

William Graebner, “Hegemony through Science: Information Engineering and Lead Toxicology, 1925 – 1965,” in David Rosner and Gerald Markowitz, eds., Dying For Work: Workers Safety and Health in 20th Century America, (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1989).

 Report of the Task Group on Industrial Alcohol from Grain, USDA, April 25, 1957, Papers of Sen. Carl Curtis, Nebraska State Historical Society.

  S.J.W. Pleeth, Alcohol: A Fuel for Internal Combustion Engines (London: Chapman & Hall, 1949) .

 Petroleum and Ethanol Fuels:  Tax Incentives and Related GAO Work, Report B286311 to Sen. Tom Harkin, Sept. 25, 2000. 

 MTBE is for Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether, an octane booster like ethanol, but made from petroleum. It is a frequent and widespread water contaminant, and lawsuits concerning the use of MTBE by petroleum companies may number in the thousands within a few years. See http://www.epa.gov/mtbe/ and http://www.energy.ca.gov/mtbe/ 

 U.S. Dept. of Interior, Robert M. Strong, “Commercial Deductions from Comparisons of Gasoline and Alcohol Tests on Internal Combustion Engines,”  U.S. Geological Survey, Bulletin 392, (Washington: GPO, 1909); Also, C.E. Lucke, Columbia University, and S.M. Woodward, U.S.DA, “The Use of Alcohol and Gasoline in Farm Engines,” U.S.D.A. Farmers Bulletin No. 277, (Washington: GPO, 1907); Also, U.S. Dept. of Interior, R.M. Strong and Lauson Stone, “Comparative Fuel Values of Gasoline and Denatured Alcohol in Internal Combustion Engines,” Bureau of Mines Bulletin No. 43, (Washington: GPO, 1918). 

 U.S. Geological Survey, Bulletin 392.

 “Shift Ethyl Inquiry to Surgeon General,” New York Times, May 21, 1925; also “U.S. Board Asks Scientists to Find New ‘Doped Gas,’” New York World,  May 22, 1925, p. 1.  

   “Launching of a Great Industry: The Making of Cheap Alcohol,” New York Times, Nov. 25, 1906, Section III p. 3.

 Francis P. Garvan, “Scientific Method of Thought in Our National Problems,” Proceedings of the Second Dearborn Conference on Agriculture, Industry and Science (New York: The Chemical Foundation, 1936), p.86.

 “Paris Exhibition of Alcohol Consuming Devices,” Scientific American, Nov. 16, 1901

 “Brazil seeks to cut gasoline payments,” New York Times, Jan. 11, 1931.

 Hal Bernton, William Kovarik, Scott Sklar, The Forbidden Fuel: Power Alcohol in the 20th Century (New York: Boyd Griffin, 1982).

 Philip Shabecoff, “EPA Orders 90 percent cut  in lead gasoline by 1986,” New York Times, March 5, 1985. 

 V. Thomas and A. Kwong, “Ethanol as a Lead Replacement: Phasing Out Leaded Gasoline in Africa,” Energy Policy 29:1133-1143, 2001.

 T. A. Boyd, The Early History of Ethyl Gasoline, 1943.       

 The Production and Use of Power Alcohol in Asia and the Far East, report of a seminar held at Lucknow, India, Oct. 23, 1952, organized by the Technical Assistance Administration and the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East, United Nations, New York.

 Lester Brown, Food or Fuel? New Competition for the World’s Cropland (Washington DC: Worldwatch Institute, 1980).

 U.S. Congress, House, Committee on Science and Technology, Subcommittee on Advanced Energy Technologies and Energy Conservation (Washington, D.C., 1 1 – 13 July 1978), p. 438, testimony of Cloud Cray.

 Alexander E. Farrell, et al., “Ethanol Can Contribute to Energy and Environmental Goals,” Science, Jan. 27, 2006, Vol. 311. 

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