The Saga of the US Synthetic Fuels Corporation:
A Cautionary Tale
by Ralph L. Bayrer Vellium

"Thus, after lengthy debate and numerous reservations by key players, Congress had launched an innovative grand attempt at building a new industry."

Ralph L. Bayrer's in The Saga of the US Synthetic Fuels Corporation does what nobody before has attempted: a close, in-depth study of the history of the U.S Synthetic Fuels Corporation (SFC), which was a government initiative intent on finding synthetic fuel alternatives during the 1970's energy crisis. As little is known and no books have been written about it, it is Bayrer's goal to give a complete history of the SFC. From its inception in the halls of Congress to the various programs it enacted to its restructuring in 1984 and ultimately to its termination by Congress, Bayrer does an excellent job of examining the SFC from all angles. His research is well documented and thorough. This is by no means an easy read; given the subject matter the text is dense, yet still understandable.

The complexities of Brayrer's work lies in the fact that the history and the downfall of the SFC is not a simple matter. As Bayrer explains the changing landscape of energy markets, the withdrawal of political support, and eroding public interest ended the SFC before its time. Interestingly, the ending chapter goes on to highlight five synthetic fuel projects that have left a lasting legacy when it comes to not only energy technologies, but the way a government can use incentives to promote innovative industries. For example, the Cool Water facility, which was a coal gasification project, met every deadline under budget and had a high production output, yet as energy prices dropped, the government and the public turned their backs on the project.

While Bayrer may offer a window into the past, he also offers a guide for how future energy policies could work. Bayrer is by no means only giving a mere history lesson as, like the Cool Water facility, many of the SFC's projects can be used as blueprints on how to develop and fund new energy projects today. Thanks to Brayrer, the fate of the SFC has never been more relevant than it is today.

Return to USR Home