25 APRIL 1931, Page 16


[To the Editor of the SPECTATOR.] Sin,—A series of letters following upon Sir Lawrence Chubb's article on " Smokeless Fuel " in the Spectator of March 81st, 1931, have repeatedly referred to a State aided experiment in low temperature carbonization. In fairness to those engaged in this growing industry I think the following facts should be made public. ,

Three years ago a scheme was prepared by the Fuel Research Board by which a research grant of £100,000 was to be made to the few firms who at that time were developing low tempera- ture carbonization. After a great deal of discussion the scheme was radically altered, and the whole of the money was allocated to a London Gas Company, who had done little or nothing in connexion with low temperature carbonization, and who on many occasions had publicly expressed their unfavourable views thereon. As a speaker said at the World's Power Congress, " It was like asking a butcher to recommend a good vegetarian diet."

The fears of those more experienced in the low temperature carbonization industry have now been confirmed by the announcement that the Government subsidised plant has been closed down and the sale of its product discontinued. During the time in which this experiment was being carried out other private concerns were perfecting their apparatus, and a considerable number of improved low temperature plants came into full production all over the country. The sole effect of the Government intervention has therefore been to establish temporarily a competitor to those firms which have already spent many thousands of pounds on research and development.

The Industry of low temperature carbonization can well claim to be of national importance. Firstly, it provides smokeless fuel suitable for the open grate. Secondly, the process converts the lowest class of coal into the highest Class of fuel, and by providing a steady and reliable outlet for the small coal at good prices, has a most beneficial effect upon ihe mining industry. Thirdly, out of every ton of coal raised, 6 cwts. is converted into oil, motor spirit and gas.

The progress achieved by the unsubsidised companies during a time of acute industrial depression has demonstrated that the foundations of the industry rest upon a sound econo- inic base. It is a significant fact also that the South Metro- politan Gas Company, one of the leading gas undertakings in the world, has demonstrated its faith in the future of low temperature carbonization by ordering the largest coalite plant yet constructed, for its East Greenwich Works.—I