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Foresight in Fuel Supply. T HERE IS A SAYING in Canada

9th May 1918, Page 1
9th May 1918
Page 1
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Page 1, 9th May 1918 — Foresight in Fuel Supply. T HERE IS A SAYING in Canada
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

that an ounce of foresight is worth a ton of hindsight, proverbially instituting a comparison of the value of imagination and the gift of looking ahead (which are Characteristics of the Latin races) with the worthlessness‘of wisdom after the event.

It is as well to recall the Canadian saying in order to impress on all who, in order to keep their services running, have to look to non-solid fuels (liquid and gaseous), the need for keeping an open mind on the fuel question and for avoiding the adoption of the highly optimistic attitude which we still find to be prevalent with regard to petrol.

Not only do we expect our engineers, designers and manufacturers of commercial vehicles to seek in every direction for alternative methods and designs, and to consider the possibilities of fuels not yet on the market but likely to become available under encouragement (to wit alcohol at one end of the scale and tar oil at the other), but we go so far as to say that it is going to pay the users to encourage all enterprise which shows any promise of economic suc cess. .

The users of commercial vehicles should have their committee of technical and practical men, formed to keep in touch with advanced thought in design, method and practice, able to consider inventions or new ideas, to give encouragement and to bring the originator into touch with potential producers. Such a body would, at once, see the Value we will say of a device that would render it possible to use one or other of the cheap and plentiful residues, such as the distillates from tar. .

Such a body would secure all the.available information on future petrol supplies, and would be sible to form an opinion as to the availability and the relative values of petrol, alcohol, paraffin, benzole, coal-gas and coal distillates, and it would be in a. position to consult with the manufacturers upon the future type of power Unit. There is no evidence that the manufacturers, either individually or collectively, as such, are looking into the question of what fuels will be _. available, we will say, in 1921 or 1922, nor is it neces-' sarily their job to do so. The present fashion is the petrol engine, and at the present, too, it is nobody's business to say on what lines future design shall run. If it be left to chance, then we say that we shall, later on, merely be using our worthless ton of hindsight, 'wher'eas a committee of the persons most interested —the users—by exercising an ounce of foresight and by ascertaining exactly the fuel position and the fuel possibilities would`materiajly influence the design of future commercial vehicle power units in the right— that is, in the economieal—direction, . The Motor User and the Safeguarding of Industry.

HE FINAL REPORT of the Committee of Com mercial and Industrial Policy after the war (Lord Balfour-of Burleigh's Committee) is a very voluminous document, containing a number of very important recommendations. Perhaps the chief of these is that which advises the establishment of a strong and competent Board to examine into all applications of industries for State assistance.

The terms of reference of the proposed Board are indicated and conclude with the instruction which is perhaps the most important of all. This is that the Board should have constantly in mind the safeguarding of the interests of consumers and cif labour.

Assuming that this particular proposal will be unanimously approved and.alsol that the proposed Board will be duly set un, we have a fairly satisfactory assurance that protective legislation will in. no case be carried to such a point as to endanger the interests Of the buying public. Applying this to our own case, there is not the slightest probability of any import duty, that may be imposed on foreign motor vehicles, being so considerable as to deter the public from making the fullest possible use of this essential means of transport.

The suggested Board is intended only to consider applications for assistance-from industries which must be perpetuated for reasons of national safety or upon the general ground that their assistance is requisite to the maintenance of the economic strength and wellbeing of the country, The "report clearly indicates that the motor industry is regarded as coming within this category, but this does not by any means necessarily mean that the motor industry will be protected by tariffs.

It would first be necessary for the industry to prove to the Board that its disabilities and. disadvantages could not be removed by improvement in internal organization. For instance, the industry would, we suppose have to show that it -had adopted the principles of standardization and co-operation to a reasonably full extent, in view of its special circumstances. Some industries can co-operatefonoret.easily than others, and therefore the adoption of co-operative methods of manufacture and selling cannot be made obligatory. If, however' such methods have not been adopted, it will behove the-industry to, show clearly why they would he simpracticable:or inadvisable. Similarly, we take it that a case would have to be stated as to the degree of standardization secured and possible. If the Board came to the conclusion that the industry was endeavouring to obtain State assistance in order to -save itself the trouble-of setting its own house in 'order, then little or no assistance would be forthcoming. If the conclusions were more favourable, it still does not follow that protective duties would be introduced or advised. Some other means of helping the industries might be •preferred, and among those tentatively suggested is a system of bounties on production, though this is not regarded as a probable solution in the case of larger industries.

An alternative more applicable to the motor industry is that of granting preferential treatment in respect of contracts from Government and other authorities, subject to the maintenance of an adequate standard of quality and to security against the operations of price rings. The third alternative lies in financial assistance gfanted by the State. This might, perhaps, take the form suggested some time ago by a well-known motor manitfacturer, namely, a loan to each concern of a certain proportion of the sum paid by or due from it under the Excess Profits Duty.

The proposed Board, which would consider all these matters, should be an independent body, which would, however, co-operate with the Treasury and the Board of Trade. It would report direct to the drown, and its reports would be laid before Parliament immediately apon being made.

Key Industriesand Other Matters.

ASSUMING THAT the Bard suggested in the preceding article is formed, one of its funetions would be to take special care of certain "Key ' or " Pivotal "industries. These are industries upon which other and moreextensive. industries are dependent, and in respect of which continued production is therefore regarded as essential, whatever the difficulties or expense entailed in securing it. It is clearly stated that no ordinary economic rules apply to such industries ; that they must be kept alive by some means or other, and, in the last event, by Government manufacture.

Among these particular industries, a provisional list of which is given, appears the magneto, which is perhaps orte of the best examples of the class. We have learnt all the dangers of allowing the magneto industry to be something nearly approaching a German monopoly. This must never occur again, but it is conceivable that strong measures may be necessary to secure the permanence of the British industry which has now been established on an adequate scale. Our only criticism is that the magneto industry may not be permanently essential to the engine or vehicle manufacturer. Some form of electric ignition isessential to him, but only the future can show whether he willbe ultimately dependent on the magneto or upon a • dynamo charging a secondary battery, from which the ignition current is taken: While the matter is in doubt, it is not desirable that special privileges should be given to the makers of magnetos which are withheld from the makers of alternative systems of ignition, and this is a point which will have to be taken up at the right time and place.

Reverting to the motor industry, there is, we are glad to say, a recognition of the fact that its present difficult positionis largely due th ill-advised legislation and is not mainly attributable to internal defects. The legislation in question is that whiclabas hampered the use rather than the manufacture of Vehicles, and an admission of this fact appears to open the door to -the motor: industry for putting forward arguments bearing upon the reduction of taxation of vehicles and their fuel, the development and improvement of 2318 roads, and other matters primarily affecting the user and through him affecting also the manufacturer.

Thus, we get back to the point from which we started ; that is, the fact that the interests of manufacturer and user are to a great degree bound up together. The one cannot be considered without the other, and any attempt to divorce the two completely Would merely lead to a perpetuation of the unsatis-. factoiy position that has, in the past, hindered the development of the most modern and economical form. of road. transport.

The Future of Road and Railway Transport. THE WHOLESALE CUTTING down of railway facilities, the endea.vours to put a check on un necessary journeying by train, the withdrawal -even of essential services (to wit, the all-night services on certain lines to and from the Metropolis used solely by workers on the Press and in the-markets) all go to show that the railways are adversely affected by prevailing conditions far more than the people are being told. There are, of course, difficulties in the matter of labour and coal and other supplies, but these alone would not account for such a complete sweep as was made from the first of this month, and the other true causes may be looked for in the direction of condition of permanent way and rolling stock.

It is becoming apparent to all who are compelled to travel by rail that the permanent way of every railway arganization has deteriorated and that the rolling stock is not heing•maintained in accordance with the standard of British railroad practice.

Much of the rolling stock and all of the permanent way material sent overseas will at the close of hostilities be useless and will not be returned for 'further employment in this country.

What does this portend? Does it not mean that the railways cannot possibly be relied upon to cope adequately with the traffic of the country when that traffic is returning to normal conditions?

In fact, reliance must be placed to an enormous extent upon road vehicles in order to provide the lifeblood—the circulating system—of the industries of the country, and it is therefore not difficult to foresee that the Road Transport Board will be more than a temporary expedient. It must be continued for a period after the war, which may be of two or three years or even longer, in order that the machinery of goods transport may be provided to make up for the inability of the assilszays to handle even their legitimate .sharebf the traffic. In the circumstances, we hold it important that the Board itself and the Divisional Boards should be composed bf the right men—those who are capable of shaping the policy which shall put _ the commercial vehicle on its rightful and proper plane and which shall create for road transport such 'a, status that when the railways are restored to their pre-war condition the motor vehicle will have become firmly established in the scheme of industrial transport.

Competition of Manufacturer Against User.

WE HAVE HEARD it suggested that, as a means of placing a proportion of returned military vehicles after overhaul, manufacturers should form syndicates or companies to purchase and run fleets of such vehicles, either as charsa-banes around pleasure resorts, 'or in rural services for the general conveyance of. passengers, goods, parcels and mails. It is even possible that the Governmental authority which. is dealing with this big question may -urge this course upon, manufacturers. If so' we hope that a strenuous resistance will. be offered on behalf of users. Occasionally, it may be necessary for the manufacturer to come int,o competition with the user, but the principle is fundamentally bad, and any avoidable spread of the practice must be deprecated.

The local carrier, the .haulage contractor, and the char-A-banes proprietor represent branches of an established industry. The motor vehicle is their raw material, or the tool which shapes it, and they are not likely to continue to purchase their raw material or tools from any concern which competes with them in their own sphere. The motor manufacturer would not be disposed to buy components or shop equipment from another manufacturer -who also produced complete cars, and used the profits and output advantages resulting from the sales effected by his compo nent and tool departments as a means of underselling the buyer ef these. Similarly, the motor manufacturer who comes out as a haulage contractor is able to get his vehicles and spares at cost price, and is therefore, at an advantage in competition with other 'hauliers who buy from him. This mustzeact against continued sales of complete vehicles, and it would evidently be particularly bad policy to place returned war vehicles in such a way as ro damage unduly the goodwill upon which thu sales of new vehiclesare dependent.

. We are aware that there are certain clear cases of business being done in opposition to the principle we advocate.; but should the British motor industry definitely throw this principle overboard—as we do not think it is likely to do—then a strong prejudice in favour of the purchase of foreign vehicles by contractors and others -would unquestionably be given Substantial encouragement.

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