Review of Reviews

Oil for Allies

In This Indispensable Commodity, They Possess an Immense Advantage

May 15 1940
Review of Reviews

Oil for Allies

In This Indispensable Commodity, They Possess an Immense Advantage

May 15 1940

Oil for Allies

In This Indispensable Commodity, They Possess an Immense Advantage

THE overwhelming importance of oil in the war is stressed by an article in the London magazine Illustrated. It states: Recently the Nazis signed a pact under which Roumania was to send them 130,000 tons a month. Instead, next month, they got only 25,000 tons. The Roumanians stated blandly that they had not sufficient rolling stock to send the full amount. They wanted their rolling stock for the rearming of their country, and Germany must wait. Both sides—the Nazis and the Allies— have been "ante-ing up.” The German counters have been bluff and threats: ours, hard cash and the promise of armed assistance if the Balkans are attacked.

So far, Germany seems to have lost, for the Entente has as good as told her that, pact or no pact, she can only have what is left over after the needs of the other Entente partners are satisfied, and the needs of other customers.

What is oil but a dark, smelly liquid which gushes from out the depths of the earth, a decomposition product of plant and animal life which died about 100,000,000 years ago? Yet more surely than all the gold or precious stones ever mined it can swing the fate of nations.

In 1917, in the middle of the last war, Clemenceau uttered a striking, truthful and brutal phrase. He said : “A drop of oil is woith a drop of blood.” If the "Tiger” were alive today he would, I think, have to raise his bid. He would have to make it a pint of blood.

For today, truly, it is the sinews of modern war.

Oil for the vast mechanized forces of the armies, for the tanks, gun carriers, artillery tractors, for the engines which have supplanted the mule, horse and man power of previous wars.

Oil for the tens of thousands of warplanes, for those lavishly designed engines which use petrol at the rate of a gallon a mile. Oil for warships and submarines. Oil for civil transport, so that life can go on behind the front lines.

So this can be said with certainty. The side whose supplies give out first, or which are insufficient to maintain its armed forces at full efficiency—that side has lost the war.

Lack of oil was the primary cause of Poland’s overwhelming defeat.

Because her stocks were bombed and destroyed and because no fresh supplies could get in from outside, Poland's excellent air force was immobilized within a few days of the invasion. It could neither defend nor counter-attack.

Toward the end there was just sufficient petrol to allow the surviving warplanes to escape over the neutral frontiers. The same thing happened to Poland’s land army.

Supply transport was paralyzed, the tanks and mechanized forces stopped in their tracks. Germany, who inflicted that lesson, has not forgotten it. Nor have the chief strategists of the Allies.

As the prospects of a Blitzkrieg, from either side, become ever more remote, an examination of the oil position in the belligerent countries becomes as sound a guide as any to the outcome and the duration f this war.

According to General Serrigny, head of the Mechanization Staff of the French Army, about 70 million tons of petrol will be required in the first twelve months of a "full-out” European war. Of this amount, and judging from the admitted extent of Germany’s air and mechanized

forces, that country will require at least 20 million tons. Where is it to come from?

In peacetime Germany consumed about 7,500,000 tons a year of which she produced about one third from coal and her meagre home resources. The rest came from America, Iran, Venezuela, the Dutch East Indies, Russia and Roumania.

With the exception of the last two countries, all supplies are cut off. Somehow Germany has to find million tons— the difference between the wartime requirements and what it can produce synthetically.

Of course, the Nazis have built up huge stocks in preparation for this war. But the oil firms know just how much a country is imjx)rting above its normal consumption.

At the outside, the Nazis during their term of power cannot have accumulated more than a three years normal supply— in other w'ords one year’s war demands. When Goering, therefore, talks of a fiveyear war he must be thinking of a "slow motion” war, or else he is talking through his very decorative hat.

You might ask: "What about Russia and Roumania?” The answer is in the oil production tables of those countries. Granted that Hitler managed to seize the Roumanian fields—that the Allies would let him, and that the Roumanians, as in the last war, did not destroy them before he got there — he would get 6,000,000 tons a year from that country. Russia produces 30,000,000 tons.

Granted that Stalin would sell, and could deliver (and there is no evidence so far of that), Hitler could hope for 6,000,000 tons at most. The rest, Russia wants for herself—for her vast mechanized agriculture, her army and air force and for “hard cash” trade.

Nowhere, therefore, does Germany’s oil position add up to much more than a year’s prosecution of "total war.”

What about the position of the Allies?

If we accepted General Serrigny’s figures, Britain and France together will need 50,000,000 tons a year. Almost the whole of this amount can be obtained from oil fields in Iran, Iraq, Venezuela and Trinidad, over which British interests have entire control.

Even if the smaller fields in the Dominions did not make up the total, we still have America’s 170,000,000 tons output at our backs and the Dutch East Indies output. Our mastery of the seas ensures that we can obtain these supplies when and how we want them.

The search for oil and for oil domination still goes on. Perhaps cleanlier in its methods but still more frantically. For oil today is the world’s most important wasting asset.

As the level of the known wells sinks, so the demand steadily rises. Last year a total of 280,000,000 tons was won from the earth. Even without the demands of a major war it was nearly all consumed.

In America, wells long dry have been opened up again. Powerful acids are being flooded down to the shaft bottoms in the hope of eating through the rock to smaller oil pockets which would yield enough to pay for pumping expenses.

There is hardly an area of the earth’s surface which is not being combed by hordes of prospectors, geologists and oil concessionaires.

Before or after the prospectors, come the agents, secret and otherwise, of the Great Powers, for oil is always the harbinger of political change. Today the whole of the Islamic world is the main hunting ground for petroleum, with consequences which no man can yet foresee.

Some estimates give world supplies another twenty years before the great shortage arrives. It is every country’s dream to be self-sufficient in oil. so the search goes on in the most unlikely places.