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develop between the Caribbean and European ports, it is but natural that more European manufactured goods will seek market there.
Direct shipments have been established already through the banana trade by the United Fruit Company and the Hamburg-American line between European ports and Mexico, Jamaica, Honduras and Costa Rica. Already our Central American consuls have warned us of the coming competition which we must expect in that region from the new direct outlets for French, German and English trade.
We have been fortunate heretofore because, especially in some of the regions of Central America and in Jamaica, we have been practically the only great buyer of the most important product of the country. If present developments continue, however, this advantage along with our favored conditions of transportation will disappear.
OIL ON THE CARIBBEAN
ALMOST unnoticed, the conditions which underlie sea power are undergoing a revolution. The nineteenth century saw the abandonment of the wind-driven craft upon which the world had relied since the beginning of history in favor of vessels propelled by coal and steam. The twentieth century promises a change no less remarkable. Coal as fuel is rapidly yielding place to petroleum and gas-driven motors seem about to crowd out the steam engine.
The change to oil as fuel for large ships is already in progress. Almost all large vessels whose routes carry them near oil fields are being fitted to use petroleum instead of coal. The change from the steam engine to the
gas motor is coming more slowly. The crude-petroleum-consuming motor has only recently emerged from the experimental stage, but it seems highly probable that in a few years it will play an important part in both the merchant marines and navies of the world.
There are already in operation motor-driven Danish merchantmen of 7,000 tons, “sailing” in the Far Eastern trade, and two German firms are building vessels of this pattern which will register 10,000 tons. But even if the motor-driven liners and battleships never come or are delayed, the oil-driven liners and battleships are present-day facts.
The nation which controls the oil supply possesses one of the great factors upon which ocean-borne commerce will depend and about which naval policies will turn. Most fortunate of all is the nation which controls oil supplies which lie near the points where the world's great trade routes cross. In time of peace such resources will find a ready market, and in time of war they will prove possessions of greatest strategic importance.
The public has not realized the steps already taken by the great naval powers to prepare for the shift to oil as a fuel for their battleships. All the battleships of the American Navy built in the last eight years use oil for fuel, eight use it as auxiliary to coal, four use it exclusively. In 1915, the first two battleships of the dreadnought type, the Oklahoma and the Nevada, using oil exclusively for fuel, were added to the Navy. Fortyone of our destroyers built or building use oil fuel only. Storage facilities are being proportionately increased. Oiling stations are replacing coaling stations. In 1912 steps were taken for construction of fuel oil tanks at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; Melville, R. I.; Norfolk, Virginia; Charleston, South Carolina; and Key West, Florida. Five tanks are already in use at Guantanamo, Cuba. The combined capacity of all these is 3,890,000 gallons. The amounts used by the Navy are steadily
1 Annual Report of the Navy Department, 1912, p. 37, and Report of the General Board, published in Annual Report of the Secretary of the Navy, for the Fiscal Year 1914, Washington, 1914, p. 60.
increasing. Our present oil-burning fleet would require 23,000 tons of fuel oil to keep it in active service for a single month. “Henceforth,” announces Secretary of the Navy Daniels, “all the fighting ships which are added to the fleet will use oil, and the transition from coal to oil will mark an era in our naval development almost comparable with the change from black powder to smokeless powder for our guns.
But more significant is the recently announced intention of the British Admiralty that all British warships to be built from now on will use oil for fuel exclusively. This action is one which will almost certainly be followed by other naval powers. The performance of the oil-driven vessels in the European War has been especially satisfactory. The great super-dreadnought Queen Elizabeth, which did such effective work in the Dardanelles, is entirely oil-driven and shows that the use of this fuel is not limited by the size of the vessel. The success of this and other experiments has led the British Government during the course of the war to convert the Royal Sovereign to the oil-fuel basis.
The change in the propelling power of our ships of war and peace marks the beginning of a new chapter in marine affairs. It is especially significant for the great naval powers—a fact which has not escaped their attention. Curiously enough, the oil wealth of the world
1 Annual Report of the Navy Department, 1912, p. 206 and Report of the General Board cited above.
2 Annual Report of the Secretary of the Navy, for the Fiscal Year 1914, Washington, 1914, p. 13.
3 See Speech of Winston Churchill reported in London Times, Feb. 16, 1915, p. 10.
lies very largely in the hands of nations which are either outclassed in the naval competition, or are peculiarly hampered by circumstances. This is, of course, explained by the fact that oil resources were unknown or unappreciated at the time when the treaties determining the ownership of the regions in which they lie were made. In any great war in which control of the sea becomes a major issue their continued possession by the weaker powers can hardly fail to be called in question. Only the practically complete control of the sea by one group of powers has prevented the raising of the issue in the present conflict. For this reason, the possession of oil resources still remains as it was when the conflict broke out.
The facts of the situation at present are these: The greatest oil wells of the Far East are in the Dutch East Indies, the greatest in the Near East lie in Russian territory near the Caspian. Russia is a great power, but for historical reasons she has never been a naval power of the first importance. Next in importance among European wells are those in Roumania. The great oil fields discovered in the New World have, until recently, been almost exclusively in the United States. Curiously enough, therefore, the developed oil resources are controlled by non-naval powers with the exception of those held by the United States, the product of which, in 1912, was three times that of the Russian fields and more than a hundred times that of the Mexican region, the two nearest competitors.
But what of the oil regions which may be discovered in the future? In whose territory, will they lie and to