20 JUNE 1931, Page 17

OIL FROM COAL [To the Editor of the SPECTATOR.]

Sin,—As one of the pioneers of the oil from coal business, and as one who has spent a great many years on the subject, I cannot fail to be interested in the remarks made by Mr. Charles. Turner in your June 6th issue. I do not hold any brief for the Department of Mines, nor for the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, but at the same time, although the views expressed by these Departments have not always been the same as those held by myself, I must in fairness state that Mr. Turner appears to lose sight of the fact that the principal r6le of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research is that of acting as observers and collectors of data, and advising the Government accordingly.

Mr. Charles Turner has an axe to grind, and he is grinding it ruthlessly ; I also have an axe to grind, so has everybody who is connected with the industry, but at the same time let us be fair. The position of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research is not too enviable, and they must at times be in difficulty in drawing the correct conclusions, but having over many years had discussions and extensive dealings with the Department in question, I have always found them amenable to reason and quite prepared to listen courteously to anything I had to say. Mr. Turner talks about the costly failures. Well, we have all made costly failures, and the man who does not make any failures will never make a success. Why the Department should be expected to be entirely exempt from human frailty I cannot see. When one bears in mind the immense complexity of the subject in question, it is rather a matter of congratulation that we have not made still greater mistakes.

It is no good finding fault and rubbing it in ; that is not going to lead us anywhere. It is far better to get together and to sink our differences for the common good. There is room for many different processes, and there is something good in most of them. Why not by technical and scientific co-

operation attempt to eliminate the bad points and improve the. good ones to such an extent that we can eventually put some- thing forward which will give us what we desire on a really national scale ? It can be taken for a fact that the technical difficulties of low temperature have been definitely solved in a number of cases. Some of the economic problems still remain, but I do not think it is too much to say that the general depression and the slump in oil prices which we are at present experiencing are in reality to blame. There are, believe me, in the Department of Mines and the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research able men, and we as oil-from-coal producers can do with all the technical and scientific assistance we can get. • I am fully in favour of Mr. Turner's suggestion of having a Committee appointed, not to study a single process, but to review the whole position, and since the position to-day is that a vast amount of evidence has already been accumulated, there is no necessity for any long-drawn-out session, but we can get to work right away. Already schemes of that kind have been formulated and are under discussion in responsible