Oil reserves running out - 1961 shock?

The Pleuger active rudder, fitted to a fishery ship for enhanced station-keeping and steering The Pleuger active rudder, fitted to a fishery ship for enhanced station-keeping and steering

The May 1961 issue of The Motor Ship, on its comment page, questioned whether, with the growing popularity of the Diesel engine, the world’s oil reserves would be sufficient to meet demand.

The writer pointed out that even in the 19th century, geologists were predicting that known oil reserves would be exhausted in a few years. In 1938, it was being said that the reserves would be drained by 1957, or even sooner, given the higher-than-expected growth in the 1940s and 50s. And the article said that an owner specifying machinery now, for a new ship with a 20-year life span needed reassurance on the question of oil reserves.

However, a note of what looks today like complacency, was sounded. “Even allowing for the fourfold increase in the level of demand since 1938, oil reserves at present represent almost 40 years supply… It must also be accepted that there remain large, and as yet undiscovered, oil resources, so that oil for existing prime movers is assured for many years ahead.”

Quite what was meant by ‘many years’ is far from clear. And 50 years back, the emissions resulting from burning all that oil were not seen as a problem.

Elsewhere in the issue a novel rudder idea was promoted. A new UK fishery research ship, the Clione, had been fitted with a Pleuger active rudder for increased manoeuvrability and position-keeping. The German-built rudder was fitted in the conventional position, aft of the vessel’s FP propeller, and built into the blade was a 100hp AC squirrel-cage electric motor driving a small propeller. This was said to be capable of moving the ship at 5 knots on its own, but was primarily used for low-speed manoeuvring.

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