The Formula (MGM, 1980)
Directed by John G. Avildsen
Starring George C. Scott, Marlon Brando
1. As Mr. Emory had forecast in, among other programs, FTRs 278, 385, and 506, the hydrogenation process that was at the core of the Standard/I.G. Agreement of 1929 is once again emerging as a commercially viable process for the manufacture of motor fuel. With the price of oil being as high as it is now, the process is being utilized to turn a variety of materials into oil, including coal, the original source material for the hydrogenation process as developed by I.G. Farben in the early 1920’s. A consortium of European companies is working to exploit the coal-to-liquid variant of the Fisher-Tropsch (hydrogenation) process in order to manufacture clean-burning diesel fuel. In this context, do not overlook the fact that the Bormann capital network controls the major German corporations, as discussed in FTR#305. “DaimlerChrysler, Renault, Royal Dutch Shell, Sasol Chevron and the Volkswagen group are launching an association-The Alliance for Synthetic Fuels in Europe (ASFE)-to promote synthetic fuels in Europe and to support research, demonstration projects, and public-private cooperation in the area. ASFE is focusing on synthetic fuels made with the Fischer-Tropsch (FT) process from natural gas (Gas-to-Liquids, GTL), coal (Coal-to-Liquids, CTL) or biomass (Biomass-to-Liquids, BTL). The Fischer-Tropsch process produces a range of near-zero sulfur and aromatics transport fuels and chemicals. Of the three processes, GTL is the most commercially advanced, with a few major of plants being built or planned worldwide and the prospect of increasing product availability from 2006 onwards. BTL-‘second-generation biofuels’-needs further R&D investment is of great interest to European policymakers.“
(“Alliance for Synthetic Fuels Launches in Europe”; 3/7/2006; GreenCarCongress.com)
2. “While the fuels resulting from the Fischer-Tropsch process are cleaner-burning in operation, thereby resulting in reductions in tailpipe emissions (particulate matter, oxides of nitrogen, carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons), the production process itself is energy-intensive and can throw off a large amount of carbon dioxide. The use of CTL or GTL fuels results in greenhouse-gas emissions comparable to those produced by burning petroleum-based fuels, while the F-T fuels produced from biomass can contribute to vehicular greenhouse gas reductions of up to 90%-an important aspect of the fuel for European automakers, who must meet reduced CO2 emission standards.” (Idem.)
3. Reviewing information presented in FTR#544, we view how another variant of the process—gas-to-liquid or GTL– is being utilized to turn natural gas into motor fuel. Note that many of the major oil companies, including ExxonMobil and Chevron—both members of the old Standard Oil Trust—are involved in the development of this technology. “A novel way to create an ultra-clean fuel for cars that uses natural gas instead of oil is on the verge of rapid growth, analysts say, driven by soaring oil prices and a thirst for alternative fuels. Oil companies are investing billions in the nascent technology, called ‘gas-to-liquids’ or GTL, which can be used to produce quality diesel and a range of other products normally derived from crude. The process was developed in Nazi Germany and apartheid South Africa, but in a few weeks will be tested on a commercial scale for the first time when the largest plant so far opens in Qatar. [Emphasis added.] The Oryx GTL plant, a joint venture between South Africa’s Sasol and Qatar Petroleum, is being watched closely by competitors and investors looking for the next big thing in energy. . . . Carmakers are also interested. Royal Dutch Shell is working with Toyota, Volkswagen and DaimlerChrysler to create vehicles that run on pure GTL diesel, which combines high power with extremely low emissions. . . . Shell and ExxonMobil plan to build much larger GTL plants in Qatar. . . . Nigeria has a plant under construction, built by Sasol and Chevron. BP plans to build a plant in Colombia. . . .“
(“Oil Giants Look to Gas Alternative” by Thomas Catan; The Financial Times; 3/6/2006; p. 15.)
4. A previous Financial Times article discussed the genesis of the GTL process: “To be sure, GTL has been around for a while. The basic process was invented in the 1920’s and then developed by Nazi Germany and apartheid South Africa—both of which had problems getting enough petrol for their vehicles. Initially, it was used to turn coal into a liquid. [Emphasis added.] Today, it is used to turn natural gas into a clean burning fuel for use in diesel engines, naptha, lubricants and a range of other products. . . . .“
(“Ambition to Become the World Capital of Novel Technology—Gas-to-Liquid” by Thomas Catan; The Financial Times; 5/19/2005.)
5. Next, the program reviews information from FTR#385. In that program, Mr. Emory discussed the background of the Standard-I.G. Agreement. (More background information about this agreement is presented in FTR#506.) The Standard-I.G. Agreement of 1929 was similar, in certain respects, to what has become known as a “debt-equity swap.” I.G. had invested a great deal of capital into “R&D” (research and development) of the hydrogenation process in order to utilize Germany’s large coal reserves to synthesize oil—Germany has no domestic petroleum reserves. As a result of its enormous expenditures in this regard, I.G. Farben’s financial situation was precarious. Standard Oil of New Jersey–the most important of the Standard firms (later Exxon, now Exxon-Mobil)–recognized that the successful development of the hydrogenation process had the potential to threaten its profit position by freeing industrial economies from dependence on naturally-produced oil. The two companies negotiated the Standard-I.G. Agreement of 1929—satisfying the needs of both companies.
Through this agreement, I.G. Farben received: a significant block of Standard of New Jersey’s stock (making it the second largest stock holder in the firm behind the Rockefeller family), as well as the right to produce and market synthetic fuel developed by hydrogenation in Germany only. This gave I.G. Farben badly needed capital and guaranteed Germany’s access to hydrogenation-produced synthetic oil.
Through this agreement, Standard Oil of New Jersey received: the exclusive right to produce and market synthetic oil developed through the hydrogenation process everywhere but in Germany. This assured Standard’s profit position by protecting against the potential threat posed by synthetic oil.
6. During World War II, I.G. Farben’s hydrogenation plants provided Germany with the bulk of its fuel, thus realizing some of the potential of the Standard-I.G. Agreement. The 1944 aerial campaign against the largest of those plants, the giant I.G. facility at Leuna, was one of the pivotal engagements of the air war in Western Europe. “The Battle of Leuna” was instrumental in crippling Germany’s war machine. Although Germany managed to keep the plant operating by cannibalizing equipment from other hydrogenation facilities, the resulting damage to the overall synthetic oil program was a decisive element in the destruction of the fuel for Germany’s war machine.
(“The Battle of Leuna” is discussed in FTR#506. See also: The Crime and Punishment of I.G. Farben; by Joseph Borkin; The Free Press [Macmillan]; Copyright 1978 [HC]; ISBN 0–02-904630–0; pp. 128–30.)
7. In the early 1990’s, the Leuna refinery (which had been rebuilt by the Soviets after the war) became the focal point of a complex deal involving the French oil firm ELF-Aquitaine, the Thyssen heavy industrial firm and the Saudi Arabian armaments industry. This deal, in turn, is at the center of an ongoing scandal in Germany involving political payouts to the CDU party of former Chancellor Helmut Kohl, bribes allegedly made by French politicians, kickbacks involving powerful Canadian political and economic interests, and the intelligence services of numerous countries. In turn, the CDU funding scandal is inextricably linked with the Underground Reich. (For more about the CDU funding scandal, see FTR#‘s 193, 276, 278.) The intense interest on the part of major political and industrial interests in this renovated Second World War facility is of particular significance in this context. Most of the industrial infrastructure of the former East Germany was bought out and liquidated (with enormous resultant hardship for the citizens of that part of Germany) shortly after reunification. In contrast, the former I.G. facility at Leuna was considered a valuable prize. The maneuvering around the Leuna facility and the CDU funding scandal was instrumental in convincing Mr. Emory that The Formula was of more than mere literary significance. It convinced him that that fact-based novel would have to be discussed at some future point.
8. The novel The Formula revolves around the formula for a catalyst (“the Mangan Catalyst”) developed by I.G. Farben as part of its “Genesis Project.” The significance of the project lies in the fact that it greatly improved the efficiency of the hydrogenation process, streamlining Germany’s synthetic fuel production capacity and (potentially) making the hydrogenation process economically competitive with naturally-produced petroleum. In the novel, the post-1973 increase in the price of oil makes the “Formula” a pivot-point of clandestine intrigue. Consider the significance of the hypothetical existence of such a formula. It would: potentially control petroleum-producing countries (including the former USSR and the Middle-East oil kingdoms) by threatening their economic foundation; offer the key to manipulating the economies of non-oil producing industrial economies by potentially freeing them from the need to import oil; control the “profit position” of the major oil companies; and legally freeing Germany from the need to import oil—I.G.‘s successor companies would have retained the right to produce hydrogenation-derived oil. Given the improvements in organic chemistry and other technologies in years since World War II, it seems unlikely that something like the “Mangan Catalyst” (or an analogous technological development) would not have been developed.
9. In the context of the emphatically hypothetical, interrogatory nature of FTR#385, one should not lose sight of the fact that the world’s natural petroleum reserves are limited, and will be exhausted within a few decades. The motivation of the petroleum-producing countries and the oil companies themselves to extract the remaining oil from the ground at “top dollar” before bowing to the inevitable would, therefore, be considerable under the circumstances. This should be evaluated as one delves into the text and substance of this fact-based work of fiction. IN THIS CONTEXT, IT IS ALSO OF MORE THAN PASSING INTEREST THAT HIS ENERGY CONSULTANTS (A SUBSIDIARY OF THYSSEN INDUSTRIES) IS THE EPICENTER OF THE “PEAK OIL” HYPOTHESIS. THIS IS THE CONTENTION THAT THE WORLD’S OIL SUPPLY IS ALREADY NEARING EXHAUSTION. WITH THYSSEN HAVING PURCHASED THE LEUNA FACILITY IN THE EARLY 1990’S, IT IS IMPORTANT TO NOTE THAT THYSSEN STANDS MUCH TO GAIN FROM A COMMERCIAL EXPLOITATION OF THE HYDROGENATION PROCESS. NOTE ALSO THAT THE ROCKEFELLERS OWN A MAJOR SHARE IN THYSSEN. OF COURSE, THE ROCKEFELLERS ARE PRINCIPAL OWNERS OF THE STANDARD OIL COMPANIES, ALONG WITH THE BORMANN CAPITAL NETWORK. FOR MORE ABOUT THE PEAK OIL SCAM, THYSSEN, HIS ENERGY CONSULTANTS, AND THE LEUNA FACILITY, SEE FTR#506. FOR MORE ABOUT THE BORMANN CAPITAL NETWORK’S PARTICIPATION IN STANDARD OIL, SEE FTR#305.
10. In one of The Formula’s climactic moments, “Steiffel” reveals to “Caine” the future of the “Mangan catalyst,” and the hydrogenation process. In this context, as well, it is interesting to contemplate the Bush administration’s renewed emphasis on coal production. (See, among other programs, FTR#289.) “Steiffel walked up to the big glass window, and Barney sat down in a chair facing the circular desk. ‘Don’t feel too disheartened, son,’ Steiffel said, turning to Barney. ‘We will manufacture synthetic fuel. And in great quantity. We already own most of the coal in the country. We know what’s coming. We have the formula. We have the Mangan catalyst, and we have the technology. But we must be certain of profit. By 1990, the country will be on its knees to OPEC. The government will then turn to us. And in their desperation they will insure our profit position in the manufacture of synthetic fuel.’”
” ‘Nice,’ Barney said.”
” ‘Business,’ Steiffel replied, ‘just business.’ He crossed from the window and walked toward Barney. ‘We are a team of giants nursing the lullaby of the masses.’”
“Steiffel sat down on the sofa opposite Barney and peered across at him in the dim light. ‘You mustn’t think of us as evil, rapacious men, clinging to the keys of our numbered Swiss accounts. On the contrary, we are a small family of simple businessmen seeking only the tranquil pursuit of profit. And we take great care to bestow sufficient largess on the citizens.’”
(The Formula; by Steve Shagan; Copyright 1979 Cirandinha Productions, Inc.; Soft Cover edition published in 1980 by Bantam Books; 0–553-13801–4; pp. 330–331.)
11. In this same scene, Steiffel explains the political economics of the hydrogenation process and the Mangan catalyst. Does this dynamic mirror reality? ” ‘Why?’ Barney asked. ‘What’s wrong with making America self-sufficient in synthetic fuel?’”
“The old man stared at Barney with a look of total wonder. ‘Do you honestly expect a three-hundred-billion-dollar industry to undermine its own stake in the lucrative scarcity of oil by mass-producing synthetic fuel?’”
“Steiffel walked back to his desk and sat down. ‘We’ve had that formula in our possession since the conclusion of the war. British Intelligence turned it over to our chemists in early ’46. We even imported a few German scientists to build pilot hydrogenation plants, to be certain the process was economically unsound. We terminated those plants in ’56. But’—he paused—‘that was twenty-two years ago. Things change. The price of crude oil has risen dramatically since ’73, making the production of synthetic fuel an economic possibility. The Genesis Formula makes it an economic reality. Therefore, we could not risk the formula falling into the wrong hands.’” (Ibid.; pp. 326–327.)
12. It has been said that “art imitates life.” Indeed. Perhaps the reverse is true as well. As we peer into the darkness of the future, consider “Caine’s” confrontation with “the old man”—“Barney Steiffel.” It is important to remember that the violence in the Middle East—including the invasion of Iraq—is one of the factors driving up the price of oil and, as a result, making synthetically produced oil more competitive with oil taken straight from the ground. ” ‘What happens when there’s no more profit left to squeeze from the citizens? When the whole goddamn world is on its knees?’ Barney asked angrily.”
“The old man looked up at the ceiling for a moment, then stared at Barney. ‘In that case, the cartel performs its historic duty. We unleash the dogs of war. There are those times when war is both economically and ecologically necessary for the ultimate survival of the species.’ ” [Emphasis added.] (Ibid.; p. 331.)
13. Lending substance and considerable credibility to Mr. Emory’s musings about the possible existence of a technology analogous to the Mangan catalyst, a recent article noted that two U.S. researchers have introduced a catalytic process to make the conversion of coal into oil (CTL technology) more efficient and economically viable. Have they innocently duplicated a previously-existing technology? Or did someone deliver the catalytic process to the researchers “in a brown paper bag?” “As the cost of oil soars and worries over the U.S. dependence on foreign petroleum escalate, coal is becoming an increasingly attractive alternative as a feedstock to make a range of fuels. Now chemists have invented a new catalytic process that could increase the yield of a clean form of diesel made from coal. The method, described in the current issue of the journal Science, uses a pair of catalysts to improve the yield of diesel fuel from Fischer-Tropschs (F– T) synthesis, a nearly century-old chemical technique for reacting carbon , monoxide and hydrogen to make hydrocarbons. The mixture of gases is produced by heating coal. Although Germany used the process during World War II to convert coal to fuel for its military vehicles, F-T synthesis has generally been too expensive to compete with oil. [Emphasis added.]“
(“Clean Diesel from Coal” by Kevin Bullis; Technology Review; 4/19/06.)
14. “Part of the problem with the F-T process is that it produces a mixture of hydrocarbons — many of which are not useful as fuel. But in the recent research, Alan Goldman, professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Rutgers University, and Maurice Brookhart professor of chemistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, use catalysts to convert these undesirable hydrocarbons into diesel. The catalysts work by rearranging the carbon atoms, transforming six-carbon atom hydrocarbons, for example, into two– and ten-carbon atom hydrocarbons. The ten-carbon version can power diesel engines. The first catalyst removes hydrogen atoms, which allows the second catalyst to rearrange the carbon atoms. Then the first catalyst restores the hydrogen, to form fuel. Diesel fuel produced in this way has several potential advantages. Ordinary diesel contains molecules, called aromatics, that, when combusted, produce particulates, Goldman says. But the diesel formed by the new catalysts does not include aromatics, so it burns much cleaner, overcoming one of the major objections to diesel fuel. This could lead to more vehicles using diesel engines, which are about 30 percent more efficient than gasoline engines.” (Idem.)
15. “But the biggest advantage may be that the United States has huge amounts of coal: ‘We have as much energy in coal as the rest of the world has in oil. That’s enough to last us the next hundred years or so,’ Goldman says. ‘Thus, a more efficient, and so less expensive method of converting coal to diesel could significantly cut U.S. dependence on foreign oil, and do so for a long time.” (Idem.)