This article proposes a new reading of the chemurgy movement in New Deal America. It shows that the quest for renewable energy was rooted in a vision of a new economy based on chemical knowledge. Rather than a goal in itself, fuel alcohol for automotive uses was meant to showcase the problem-solving power of chemists and the urgency to put chemists in charge on all levels. The article places this vision in the context of the existential crisis of capitalism in the 1930s and traces the movement’s formation, its defining projects and their failures, and how the cause petered out in the post-war years. The chemurgy movement failed for three reasons. Its defining product, fuel alcohol, was not competitive on existing markets, the movement lacked political allies, particularly in the farming community, and faced vigorous resistance from the oil industry, and its vision of expert rule never gained momentum
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.
- Renewable energy
- alternative fuels
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- History and Philosophy of Science