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Bränsle för den moderna nationen: Etanol och gengas i Sverige under mellankrigstiden och andra världskriget
Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of historical, philosophical and religious studies.
2012 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)Alternative title
Fuelling the Modern nation : Ethanol and Wood Gas as Alternative Fuels in Sweden during the Interwar Years and World War II (English)
Abstract [en]

This thesis investigate Swedish policy-making concerning promotion of wood gas and ethanol distilled from fermented sulphite lye as domestic fuel alternatives in the Interwar years and World War II. With a departure point in the theories of social constructions of technology (SCOT), the sociology of expectations and Thomas P. Hughe’s socio-technical systems I analyse the measures that were undertaken in these efforts, the arguments put forward for and against the ethanol and wood gas projects and how the efforts turned out. I also investigate how the interpretations of ethanol and wood gas as fuel alternatives changed from the Interwar period on through World War II and what consequences this had for ethanol and wood gas policy immediately after World War II. Source material includes Parliament and Government records, cabinet meeting files, governmental commissions, authority archives, technical evaluations and handbooks and scientific medical publications.

Ethanol and wood gas were promoted from a nationalist vantage point. The Interwar debate was imbued with visions of national techno-scientific prowess in a perceived ongoing global contest for technological and scientific advancement, of which achieving autarky, self-sufficiency on important raw materials and industrial products, was an ideal for some. Ethanol and wood gas were also promoted as means for creating a lucrative new market for the forestry industry, which also held a prominent position in nationalist visions of technology. Expectations of a new war also motivated the promotion of ethanol and wood gas as national fuels. Measures for promotion included tax exemptions, sales guarantees and legislation for mandatory ethanol purchase for all petrol importing companies and gasifier loan funds. Political conflicts mainly centred around the principles of free trade as opposed to protectionism, proper use of tax funds and whether the potentials of the fuel alternatives were rhetorically exaggerated. During World War II ethanol and wood gas in particular served as important petrol surrogates. The increased wood gas use led to negative interpretations of wood gas a fuel alternative due to its hazardous, dirty and time-consuming maintenance and the changed driving behaviour it required from its users compared to petrol or ethanol fuelled automobiles. Compared to wood gas, ethanol was appreciated for its socio-technical similarities to petrol, but production was after the war deemed difficult to maintain during wartime. Whereas wood gas remained an important stand-by surrogate during the cold war, Swedish politicians lost interest in ethanol of the kind that was promoted in the Interwar years. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå universitet , 2012. , 72 p.
Series
Historiska studier: skrifter från Umeå universitet, 4
Keyword [en]
alternative fuels, ethanol, wood gas, energy policy, controversy, history of biofuels, alternative technology, social constructions of technology, socio-technical systems, political debate, socio-technical debate, history of technology, automotive history.
Keyword [sv]
drivmedel, etanol, generatorgas, gengas, drivmedelsalternativ, biodrivmedel, förväntningar, kontrovers, sociotekniska system, sociala konstruktioner av teknik, alternativ teknik, politik, teknikdebatt, energipolitik, mellankrigstiden, andra världskriget, autarki, socioteknisk debatt, automobilhistoria, motorhistoria
National Category
History of Technology History History of Ideas
Research subject
History
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-57904ISBN: 978-91-7459-466-9 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-57904DiVA: diva2:547157
Public defence
2012-09-21, Humanisthuset, Hörsal F, Umeå universitet, Umeå, 10:15 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Projects
Fuel of the Future? A Research Programme on the Science, Technology and Selling of Biofuels in Sweden
Funder
Formas
Available from: 2012-08-30 Created: 2012-08-21 Last updated: 2012-08-28Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Promoting ethanol in the shadow of oil dependence: 100 years of arguments and frictions in Swedish politics
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Promoting ethanol in the shadow of oil dependence: 100 years of arguments and frictions in Swedish politics
2012 (English)In: Scandinavian Journal of History, ISSN 0346-8755, E-ISSN 1502-7716, Vol. 37, no 5, 621-645 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

On a political level, Swedish transport ethanol has always been embedded in visions of an alternative, brighter future. Arguments in support of ethanol have been reiterated throughout the 20th and 21st century, exhibiting a striking stability over time. At the same time, the contexts in which arguments for ethanol have been raised have undergone dramatic shifts. This article investigates the historical contingencies of three empirical cases, covering the interwar years, the aftermath of the oil crises of the 1970s and the 21st century's concerns over global warming. It concludes with the observation that despite political convictions about ethanol's commercial, military and environmental potential, domestic production has not managed to take off on its own. It has relied on state support such as tax exemptions, it has been dependent on other industries for feedstock provision and its technical superiority is still waiting for market confirmation.

Keyword
ethanol, energy policy, controversy, history of biofuels, visions, Sweden
National Category
History History of Technology History of Ideas
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-57937 (URN)10.1080/03468755.2012.725677 (DOI)000315716200004 ()
Funder
Swedish Research Council Formas
Note

Included in thesis in accepted form.

Available from: 2012-08-21 Created: 2012-08-21 Last updated: 2017-12-07Bibliographically approved
2. Ett nationellt drivmedel: etanol i svensk politik 1924-1934
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Ett nationellt drivmedel: etanol i svensk politik 1924-1934
2013 (Swedish)In: Scandia, ISSN 0036-5483, Vol. 79, no 1, 63-86 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This article investigates the political efforts to establish ethanol as a national fuel in Sweden in 1924 - 1934. Drawing on official records - the transcripts of parliamentary debates, governmental commission reports, and government bills and legislation - ethanol is considered as a technological and political artefact, with a particular focus on a strongly ideological fuel policy intended to bring about technological change.

At the time, considerable political effort went into finding and establishing a national fuel, efficient and abundant enough to support the nation's requirements for essential products. This was by no means a uniquely Swedish undertaking. Nation-states all over the industrialized world sought domestic fuel alternatives, prompted by the expected depletion of oil reserves and the fear of renewed international conflict. In that period, Swedish ethanol was distilled from fermented sulphite lye, a waste product from paper and pulp production. It was therefore presented as a lucrative solution for a waste problem, and, as it was produced within the nation-state's borders, a promising wartime surrogate. However, ethanol was more expensive than petrol, which made it less marketable during peacetime. To cover losses, the ethanol industry requested state support in the form of tax exemptions and legislation to force petrol importers to blend ethanol into all marketed petrol.

Those who argued in favour of the ethanol industry's requests were mainly right-wing politicians, who based their arguments on a nationalist ideology that national collective benefit justified state intervention in the free market. Opposition was mainly mounted by a faction in the Social Democrat party. For them, any measure that made products more expensive for consumers was unthinkable. They also argued that the ethanol industry had reached the end of the line; any production without the means and capacity to support itself should make way for its competitors. Concerns about the anticipated international conflict, however, led the Social Democrat minister for finance, Ernst Wigforss, to concede to the demands of the ethanol industry. In 1934, he thus proposed legislation that largely corresponded to claims made by right-wing politicians and the influential forestry industry, of which ethanol production was a part.

Keyword
ethanol, political technologies, alternative fuels, interwar policy, controversy, etanol, politik, drivmedelsalternativ, alternativ teknik, mellankrigstid, tekniknationalism, beredskap
National Category
History History of Technology
Research subject
History; History Of Sciences and Ideas
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-57938 (URN)000319855400004 ()
Projects
Fuel of the Future
Funder
Swedish Research Council Formas
Note

Title in English: Fuelling the nation: ethanol in Swedish politics, 1924-1934

Available from: 2012-08-21 Created: 2012-08-21 Last updated: 2017-12-07Bibliographically approved
3. Cultural meanings of wood gas as automobile fuel in Sweden 1930-1945
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Cultural meanings of wood gas as automobile fuel in Sweden 1930-1945
2012 (English)In: Past and present energy societies: How energy connects politics, technologies and cultures / [ed] Nina Möllers & Karin Zachmann, Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag, 2012, 223-247 p.Chapter in book (Other academic)
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag, 2012
Keyword
wood gas, generator gas, fuel, automobiles, alternative fuel, war economy, alternative technology, history of technology, user culture, political history, innovations, World War II, the Interwar period, surrogates, carbon monoxide poisoning, gengas, generatorgas, drivmedel, alternativ, teknik, krigsekonomi, bilism, användarkultur, teknikhistoria, politisk historia, surrogat, andra världskriget, mellankrigstiden, koloxidförgiftning, kolmonoxidförgiftning
National Category
History of Technology History Energy Systems
Research subject
History; History Of Sciences and Ideas
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-55190 (URN)978-3-8376-1964-5 (ISBN)
Projects
Fuel of the Futurue?
Funder
Formas
Available from: 2012-05-10 Created: 2012-05-10 Last updated: 2014-06-17Bibliographically approved
4. Gengas och ohälsa: den medicinsk-vetenskapliga kontroversen kring kronisk koloxidförgiftning 1944-1961
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Gengas och ohälsa: den medicinsk-vetenskapliga kontroversen kring kronisk koloxidförgiftning 1944-1961
2010 (Swedish)In: Lychnos, ISSN 0076-1648, 61-85 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Chronic carbon monoxide poisoning as a contested disease 1944–1961. By Helena Ekerholm. During World War II, wood gas became the primary fuel for Swedish motorists. Although reliable as an emergency fuel, wood gas caused concern due to its high percentage of carbon monoxide, leading to acute and chronic carbon monoxide poisoning mainly among workers in the transport sector. Chronic carbon monoxide poisoning became an intensely debated diagnosis within the medical community. The article discusses this controversy with specific regard to Thomas Gieryn’s boundary theory and the concept of culture-bound diseases in Sweden primarily associated with Karin Johannisson’s research in the field of the history of medicine. Source material includes medical scientific publications and archive material from a state research centre handling chronic carbon monoxide poisoning. Politically the diagnosis reached high credibility, but within the medical profession the diagnosis and its clinical practice were criticised. Symptoms were diffuse and included general fatigue, headache, vertigo, sleeping problems, apathy and decreased libido. Doctors diagnosing patients with chronic carbon monoxide poisoning had primarily to rely on patients’ own descriptions of their ailments, although some clinical tests were also executed. The first clinic specifically aimed at carbon monoxide poisoning, Sabbatsbergs gengasklinik, received criticism for over-diagnosing. The clinic was accused of creating a wood gas scare in the Stockholm region and causing an epidemic of imagined chronic monoxide poisoning, spurred on by extensive writings in the popular press. The controversy concerned problems of discerning those who were considered to be “objectively ill” from those who through fear had induced chronic carbon monoxide poisoning upon themselves. Notions of working-class masculinity, boundaries between physical and mental illness as well as a clash of interests between the labour movement, national social insurance offices and private enterprise are some of the facets within a complex controversy ultimately focused on drawing boundaries between legitimate and illegitimate patient demands and achieving epistemic authority.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Lärdomshistoriska Samfundet, 2010
Keyword
gengas, generatorgas, omtvistad diagnos, kontrovers, kultursjukdom, koloxidförgiftning, legitimitet, neurasteni
National Category
History
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-43876 (URN)
Available from: 2011-06-08 Created: 2011-05-13 Last updated: 2017-12-11Bibliographically approved

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