Conservation Through Engineering Part 3
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(3) Sell no oil to a vessel carrying a charter from any foreign government either at an American port or at any American bunker when that government does not sell oil at a nondiscriminatory price to our vessels at its bunkers or ports.
The oil industry is more distinctively American than any other of the great basic industries. It has been the creation of no one class or group but of many men of many kinds--the hardy, keen-eyed prospector with a "nose for oil" who spent his months upon the deserts and in the mountains searching for seepages and tracing them to their source; the rough and two-fisted driller, a man generally of unusual physical strength, who handled the great tools of his trade; the venturesome "wildcatter," part prospector, part promoter, part operator, the "marine" of the industry, "soldier and sailor too"; the geologist who through his study of the anatomy of the earth crust could map the pools and sands almost as if he saw them; the inventor; the chemist with still and furnace; the genius who found that oil would run in a pipe--these and many more, in most of the sciences and in nearly all of the crafts, have created this American industry. If they are permitted they will reveal the world supply of oil. And upon that supply the industries of our country will come to be increasingly dependent year by year.
BY WAY OF SUMMARY.
It would seem to be our plain duty to discover how little oil we need to use. To do this we must dignify coal by grading it in terms not merely of convenience as to size, but in terms of service as to its power. We should save it, if for no better reason than that we may sell it to a coal-hungry world. We should develop water power as an inexhaustible substitute for coal and if necessary compel the coordination of all power plants which serve a common territory. New petroleum supplies have become a national necessity, so quickly have we adapted ourselves to this new fuel and so extravagantly have we given ourselves over to its adaptability. To save that we may use abundantly, to develop that we may never be weak, to bring together into greater effectiveness all power possibilities--these would seem to be national duties, dictated by a large self-interest.
I have gone only sufficiently far into this whole question to realize that it is as fundamental and of as deep public concern as the railroad question and that it is even more complex. No one, so far as I can learn, has mastered all of its various phases; in fact, there are few who know even one sector of the great battle front of power. A Foch is needed, one in whom would center a knowledge of all the activities and the inactivities of these three great industries, which in reality are but a single industry. We should know more than we do, far more about the ways and means by which our unequaled wealth in all three divisions can be used and made interdependent, and the moral and the legal strength of the Nation should be behind a studied, fact-based, long-viewed plan to make America the home of the cheapest and the most abundant and the most immediately and intimately serviceable power supply in the world. If we do this, we can release labor and lighten nearly every task. We will not need to send the call to other countries for men, and we can distribute our industries in parts of the country where labor is less abundant and where homes will take the place of tenements. One could expand upon the benefits that would come to this land if a rounded program such as has been but skeletonized here could be carried out. I am convinced that within a generation it will be effected, because it will be necessary.
The simple steps now obviously needed are to pass those primary bills which are already before Congress or are here suggested. But beyond this there is imperative need that some one man (an assistant secretary in this department would serve)--some one man with a competent staff and commanding all the resources of this and other departments of the Government shall be given the task of taking a world view as well as a national view of this whole involved and growing problem, that he may recommend policies and induce activities and promote cooperative relationships which will effect the most economical production of light, heat, and power, which is more than the first among the immediate practical problems of science, as Sir William Crookes said, for it is foremost among the immediate practical problems of national and international statesmanship.
I wish now to ask consideration for another matter of home concern to which I gave attention in my last report and as to which the intervening year has strengthened and perhaps broadened my ideas--the development of our unused lands.
It was never more vital to the welfare of our people that a creative and out-reaching plan of developing and utilizing our natural resources should go bravely forward than it is to-day. Ours is a growing country, and as its social and industrial superstructure expands its agricultural foundation must be broadened in proportion. The normal growth of the United States now requires an addition of 6,300,000 acres to its cultivable area each year, which means an average increase of 17,000 acres a day.
Fortunately, the opportunity for this essential expansion exists not only in the West, where much of the public domain is yet unoccupied, but in every part of the Republic. We have a great fund of natural resources in the very oldest States, from Maine to Louisiana, which invite and would richly reward the constructive genius of the Nation. It is claimed by those who have specialized for years on the subject of reclamation that the control and utilization of flood waters now wasted would produce within the next 10 years more wealth than the entire cost to the United States of the war with Germany.
After every other war in our history the work of internal development has gone forward by leaps and bounds, and our people have thus quickly made good the economic wastes of the conflict. The needs of to-day are different from those of the past and require different treatment, but they are by no means beyond the reach of enlightened thought and action.
More than a year ago we began an earnest discussion of reconstruction policies, particularly with respect to the land. But nothing has been done. Not one line of legislation, not one dollar of money has been provided except in the way of preliminary investigation. We stand voiceless in the presence of opportunity and idle in the face of urgent national need.
A PROGRAM OF PROGRESS.
The great work of material development accomplished in the past has been done very largely by private capital and enterprise. Doubtless this must be the chief reliance for progress in the future. We should realize, however, that this method has involved losses as well as gains, for the Nation has sometimes been too prodigal in offering its natural resources as an inducement to private effort. Not only so, but with the exhaustion of the free public lands in our great central valleys--the most remarkable natural heritage that ever fell into the lap of a young nation--conditions of home making and settlement have radically changed.
There can be do doubt that there is an important sphere of action which the Government must occupy if we are to go steadily forward with the work of continental conquest, and all it implies to the future of the Nation, but in suggesting practicable steps of progress at this time I do not forget the burden of taxation which confronts our people nor the delicate and difficult task which Congress is called upon to perform in trying to keep the national outgo within the national income. Hence, I am now suggesting such constructive things as the Government may be able to do through the exercise of its powers of supervision and direction and with the smallest possible outlay of money.
Under this head I put, first, the matter of suburban homes for wage earners; second, reclamation of desert, overflow, and cut-over areas, together with improvement of abandoned farms, under a system of district organization which may be made to finance itself; third, cooperation with various States in the work of internal development.
GARDEN HOMES FOR THE PEOPLE.
There is no more baffling problem than that presented by the continued growth of great cities, but it is a problem with which we must sometime deal. It bears directly on the high cost of living and is, indeed, largely responsible for it. Rent is based on land values. Land values rise with increasing population. The price of food is closely related to the growing disproportion between consumers and producers, resulting from urban congestion.
Here is Washington, a city of some 400,000 people, doubtless destined steadily to grow until--a Member of Congress predicts--it may touch 2,000,000 twenty years hence. Already the housing problem is acute, as it is in almost every other large American city. It would be a pitiful thing if the provision of more housing facilities to meet the needs of growing population meant merely more congestion and higher rents, with an ever-decreasing degree of landed proprietorship and true individual independence. Such conditions, it seems to me, undermine the American hearthstone and carry a deep menace to the future of our institutions. I believe there must be a better way, and that the time has come when we should make an earnest effort to find it.
Within a 10-mile circle drawn around the Capitol dome are thousands of acres of good agricultural land, of which the merest fraction has been reduced to intensive cultivation. Much of it is wastefully used, and much of it is not used at all. Conditions of soil, climate, and water supply are good and represent a fair average for the United States.
Suburban transportation is a serious problem in some localities and less so in others, but tends to become more simple with the extension of good roads and increasing use of motor vehicles, including the auto bus.
Somewhere and sometime, it seems to me, a new system must be devised to disperse the people of great cities on the vacant lands surrounding them, to give the masses a real hold upon the soil, and to replace the apartment house with the home in a garden. Such a system should enable the ambitious and thrifty family not only to save the entire cost of rent, but possibly half the cost of food, while at the same time enhancing its standard of living socially and spiritually, as well as economically.
It has been suggested that there is no better place to demonstrate a new form of suburban life than here at the National Capital, where we may freely draw upon all the resources of the governmental departments for expert knowledge and advice and where the demonstration can readily command wide publicity and come under the observation of the Nation's lawmakers. And I am expecting that this experiment will be made. Such a plan of town or community life, rather than city life, should be extended to every other large city in the Nation. A simple act of legislation, accompanied by a moderate appropriation for organization and educational work, would enable the department to put its facilities at the service of local communities and of the industries throughout the United States. This form of national leadership would be of value both to investors in the local securities and to the home builders themselves. If the work of land acquisition and construction, together with the organization of community settlements resulting therefrom, were conducted under the supervision of the State or the Federal Government it would safeguard the character of the movement from every point of view.
Therefore, I put first among the constructive things which may be done by the exercise of the Government's power of supervision and direction, with the smallest outlay of money, this matter of providing suburban homes for our millions of wage earners.
RECLAMATION BY DISTRICT ORGANIZATION.
The provision of garden homes for millions of city workers will contribute largely to the Nation's food supply and become in time a most effective influence in reducing excessive cost of living for many of our people. It will not, of course, solve the problem of increasing the number of farms and the area of cultivation to meet the needs of growing population. Neither will it enable us to expand our home market rapidly and largely enough to keep the country on an even keel of prosperity.
We must go forward with the development of natural resources as we have done for the past three centuries. And we must recognize at the outset that conditions have changed with the depletion of the public domain to the point where it offers comparatively little in the way of cultivable lands.
We have now to deal principally with lands in private ownership. This calls for a new point of view and for the application of a somewhat different principle than that which has governed our reclamation policy heretofore. Moreover, reclamation is no longer an affair of one section of the United States. The day has come when it must be nationalized and extended to all parts of the Republic.
To the deserts of the West we have brought the creative touch of water, and we must find a way to go on with this work. But it is of equal importance that we should liberate rich areas now held in bondage by the swamp, convert millions of acres of idle cut-over lands to profitable use, and raise from the dead the once vigorous agricultural life of our abandoned farms.
One more fundamental consideration--we have outlived our day of small things. Whether we would or not, we are compelled by the inexorable law of necessity arising out of existing physical conditions to cooperate, to work together, and to employ large-scale operations, and on this principle we should move: Not what the Government can do for the people, but what the people can do for themselves under the intelligent and kindly leadership of the Government.
We have an instrument at hand in the Reclamation Service which has dealt with every phase of the problem which now confronts us, and with such high average success as to command the entire confidence of Congress and the country. It has turned rivers out of their natural beds, reared the highest dams in existence, transported water long distances by every form of canal, conduit, and tunnel, installed electric power plants, cleared land, provided drainage systems, constructed highways and even railroads, platted townsites, and erected buildings of various sorts. In this experience, obtained under a variety of physical and climatic conditions, it has developed a body of trained men equal to any constructive task which may be assigned to it in connection with reclamation and settlement in any part of the country.
True economic reclamation is a process of converting liabilities into assets--of transforming dormant natural resources into agencies of living production. When such a process is intelligently applied it should be able to pay its own bills without placing fresh burdens on the national treasury. It is in the confident belief that such is actually the case that I suggest the policy of reclamation by means of local districts, financed on the basis of their own credit but with the fullest measure of encouragement and moral support of the Government, practically expressed through the Reclamation Service.
In this connection it seems worth while to recall that with a net expenditure of $119,000,000 the Reclamation Service has created taxable values of $500,000,000 in the States where it has operated. The ratio is better than three to one, and that is a wider margin of security than is usually demanded by the most conservative banking methods. There is no reason to doubt that the overflow lands of the South, the cut-over areas of the Northwest, and the abandoned farm districts of New England and New York and other States would do quite as well as the deserts of the West if handled by such an organization.
What is the legitimate function of the Government in connection with reclamation districts to be financed entirely upon their own credits without the aid of national appropriations? I should say that the Government, with great advantage to the investor, the landowner, the future settler, and the general public, might do these things:
1. Employ its trained, experienced engineers, attorneys, and economists in making a thorough investigation of all the factors involved in a given situation, to be followed by a thorough official report upon the district proposed to be formed.
2. Offer the district securities for public subscription in the open market. This, of course, would follow the actual organization of the district and the approval of its proceedings by the Government's legal experts.
3. Construct the works of reclamation with proceeds of district bond sales, and administer the system until it becomes a "going concern,"
when it may be safely confided to its local officers.
The most obvious advantage of Government cooperation is the fact that it would assure the service of a body of engineers, builders, and administrators trained in the actual work of reclamation. This advantage, as compared with the management that might be had in a sparsely settled local district, would often make all the difference between success and failure. Unquestionably it would materially reduce the interest rate on district bonds and greatly facilitate their sale in the open market.
There are other advantages less obvious but really more important.
Experience has shown that great enterprises can best be handled under centralized control. This control, to be effective, must extend from the initiation to the completion of the project. There can be no assurance of this when the management is left to the electorate of a local district, and without such assurance it is difficult to command the support, first, of the landowners whose consent is essential to the formation of the district; next, of the investors who must supply the money; finally, of the settlers who must purchase and develop the land in order that the object of the enterprise may be realized. The Government can give the assurance of precisely that quality of unified, centralized, permanent, and responsible control that is required to command the confidence of all the factors in the situation.
There is another advantage of Government cooperation that will inure greatly to the benefit of the settler. The Government may readily apply the policy it now uses in connection with privately owned lands within reclamation projects. It requires the owners to enter into a contract by which they agree to accept a certain maximum price for their land if sold within a given period of years. This price is based upon the value of the land before reclamation. There are many instances, particularly of swamp and cut-over areas, where land that may be bought for $10 an acre and reclaimed at a cost of $25 to $50 per acre, has an actual market value of $100 to $200 per acre the moment it is put into shape for cultivation. If the Government, by means of a contract with the local district, undertakes the work of reclamation and settlement and does this work at actual cost, the settler will generally save enough to pay for all his improvements and equipment.
The crowning consideration is the fact that, because of all these advantages, the work of reclamation would actually be accomplished, while to-day it is not being done except in the far West, and accomplished without the aid of Government appropriations.
In the foregoing, attention has been called to those things which may be accomplished by the exercise of the Government's powers of supervision and direction with the smallest outlay of money. In all this I have been speaking of reclamation for the sake of reclamation.
The proposed soldier-settlement legislation stands on an entirely different footing. The primary object is not to reclaim land but to reward our returned soldiers with the opportunity to obtain employment and larger interest in the proprietorship of the country. The policy is based on a sense of gratitude for heroic service, not on economic considerations. This is the answer to those who have criticized it as class legislation or the proposal to grant special privileges to one element of our citizenship or as a plunge into socialism. Frankly, we avow our purpose to do for the soldier what we would not think of doing for anybody else and what would not be justified solely as a matter of reclamation.
Many measures of soldier legislation have been introduced into Congress.
Only one of these has been favorably reported. This was introduced by Representative Mondell, of Wyoming, on the first day of the present special session, embodying the plan of reclamation and community settlement brought forward by this department in the spring of 1918.
The measure has been much misunderstood and sometimes deliberately misrepresented. In the first place, it was not put forward as the complete solution of the soldier problem. It was at no time supposed or expected that all of the 4,800,000 men and women engaged in the war with Germany would or could take advantage of its provisions. It fortunately happens that the vast majority quickly found their places in the national life. Of the remainder, a very large proportion may be classified as "city minded." They have no taste for farm life but would be better served by vocational training and opportunities to enter upon remunerative trades or professions. There is an element of "country minded," and of these some 150,000 have made application for opportunities of employment and home-making under the terms of this bill. Largely they are men who have had agricultural experience but who can not obtain farms of their own without very considerable cash advances and other assistance which the Government could render. It is for this element that the policy is designed.
Conservation Through Engineering Part 3
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Conservation Through Engineering Part 3 summary
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