Germany’s synthetic fuel industry, 1927–1945
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Germany has virtually no petroleum deposits. Prior to the twentieth century this was not a serious problem because Germany possessed abundant coal reserves. Coal provided for commercial and home heating; it also fulfilled the needs of industry and the military, particularly the navy. In the opening decade of the twentieth century, Germany’s fuel requirements began to change. Two reasons were especially important. First, Germany became increasingly dependent on gasoline and diesel oil engines. The appearance of automobiles, trucks, and then airplanes made a plentiful supply of gasoline essential. Moreover, ocean-going ships increasingly used diesel oil rather than coal as their energy source. Second, Germany’s continuing industrialization and urbanization led to the replacement of coal with smokeless liquid fuels that not only had a higher energy content but were cleaner burning and more convenient to handle.
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The German Chemical Industry in the Twentieth Century