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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 70.djvu/265

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261
DENATURED ALCOHOL

he continues: "The old distilleries are still capable of existence to-day because they have moderately satisfactory established markets for their products, but more than this because they have in great measure already paid for themselves through sinking funds. New distilleries have not got this support. Money invested in them may be considered from the outset as lost. Hence one should advise as strongly as possible against the construction of new distilleries." Such pessimism as this is extreme, and German conditions are not American conditions. Still, at a time when we hear almost nothing but highly favorable accounts, it is perhaps well to call attention to the fact that there is another side to the question.

In the Farmers' Bulletins, already referred to, Dr. Wiley expresses the opinion that alcohol will not be sold in this country for less than 40 cents a gallon. Judging from the evidence given before the committee of congress and some of the other facts recited above, this price ought to furnish several eminently satisfactory profits. It may be hard to find any distiller of spirits ready to say that 20 cents a gallon is a fair price for his product, but it was, perhaps, easier to get close estimates before the passage of the bill than it is now that the bill has passed. It is to be hoped that the distillers will realize the danger that they may kill the goose, even before it has begun to lay golden eggs.

Much depends upon this question of price. So far as one can judge, alcohol at 35 or 40 cents a gallon will be upon even terms with kerosene at present prices for lighting purposes; even at a higher price it will be preferred by many on account of its cleanliness and safety. For the same reasons it may be preferred for running small motors about farms, for threshing machines, etc. At 20 cents a gallon it is about an even thing whether it will be chosen in preference to gasoline for automobiles.

On the other hand, the price of petroleum products may be lowered if the competition of alcohol becomes strong. Mr. Young of Michigan, in his speech opposing the passage of the bill,[1] said petroleum products could be bought in New York for 7 and a fraction cents a gallon by the barrel, and for 4 and a fraction cents a gallon in bulk. He also estimated the production of petroleum products in 1905 at the enormous quantity of 5,000 million gallons, and believes that the Standard Oil Company could sell for even less than 4 cents a gallon, if they thought it necessary, in order to retain their markets, and to drive out alcohol. Such figures make the prospects of denatured alcohol for heating and for power appear dubious.

In the hearings before the committee of Ways and Means it developed that in the northwest, for instance in North Dakota, petroleum

  1. See Congressional Record, Vol. 40, part 6, pp. 5317-5334.