Rubber Supplies and Replacements

August 1, 1942

Report Outline
Rubber Shortage and Rubber Conservation
Rubber Stock Pile; Sources of New Supply
Synthetic Rubber Program and Prospects
Special Focus

Rubber Shortage and Rubber Conservation

Confusion Over Need for Husbanding Rubber Supplies

Conquest by Japan last winter of Malaya and the Netherlands Indies deprived the United States, just as it was embarking on the greatest war effort in its history, of the source of 98 per cent of its supply of rubber—a material vital to the prosecution of modern warfare and essential to the efficient functioning of the nation's economy. Despite the indubitable fact that the country had lost the only available source of substantial imports of crude rubber, and despite the further fact that no American industry had had experience in, or was as yet equipped, to manufacture synthetic rubber on a large scale, many persons persisted in regarding the rubber shortage facing the nation as a myth or at least as something that need not cause undue concern.

Knowledge that the government had been buying rubber for a stock pile, discussion of plans for increasing production in Latin America, and circulation of optimistic reports about synthetic rubber potentialities, coupled with reassuring remarks by high government officials, tended to make the public doubt the existence of any real rubber emergency. Contradictory statements by government and industry spokesmen, conflicting testimony at congressional investigations, and controversy among experts and laymen over the merits of various processes for making synthetic rubber, contributed to the general confusion. Meanwhile, it became obvious that Congress, with national elections pending, was reluctant to consider such proposed measures as those for requisitioning passenger cars and tires and establishing a national 40-mile speed limit, and that the administration was equally reluctant to impose nation-wide gasoline rationing as a rubber conservation measure.

A report that Chief Justice Stone, at the request of the President, would conduct a fresh inquiry into the rubber situation, in order to clarify the facts, proved ill-founded. However, when the President disclosed, July 28, that he expected to veto a bill passed by Congress dividing control over the government's synthetic rubber program, he announced: “I am planning a move in addition to the veto.” No hint as to the nature of the intended move has been forthcoming.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
World WarII Raw Materials
Oct. 17, 1942  Silver in the War Effort
Oct. 03, 1942  European Food Resources
Sep. 14, 1942  Concentration of Production
Aug. 01, 1942  Rubber Supplies and Replacements
Jun. 05, 1942  Access to Raw Materials
Oct. 30, 1941  Enforcement of World Peace
Sep. 04, 1940  Problems of Tin and Rubber Supply
Feb. 08, 1940  Economic Weapons in the European War
Land Resources and Property Rights