Growing American Rubber: Strategic Plants and the Politics of National Security
Rutgers University Press, 2010 (2010)
Reviewed by Bob Walch
hile oil continues to be the single strategic material that dictates national and international policy decisions,
wasn't always the kingpin. Before the advent of synthetic rubber, natural rubber and the control of the areas where it was produced was a concern to industrialized nations.
ith the outbreak of the Second World War, the issue of natural rubber production was thrust to the forefront. The United States consumed about 60 percent of the world's rubber and 97 percent of the country's supply came from Southeast Asia. With the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, that supply virtually disappeared.
ark Finlay investigates the response to this situation in this book that looks at attempts to develop an alternative supply of domestic rubber in the United States. From the research that went into finding plants that could be developed into viable and practical domestic rubber plantations to the actual growing projects that were launched in California, Texas, Florida and other parts of the country, Finlay provides a comprehensive look at the
Emergency Rubber Project
efforts to fill the void left by the loss of offshore providers.
uayule, goldenrod, cryptostegia, kok-sayz, milkweed, rabbitbush and pinguay were all considered as possible rubber producers with the first three showing the most promise in yield per acre. In California and Texas the hardy guayule, a rubber bearing shrub native to northern Mexico and southwest Texas, became the plant of choice and hundreds of acres of farmland was converted to growing it.
n this fascinating book, Mark Finlay, a professor of history at Armstrong Atlantic University, shows how biological, technological, economic, political and military communities all came together to address this threat to the nation's rubber supply. He also suggests that the intertwining of military and economic interests, when it comes to concerns about strategic materials and national security, are still a factor today.
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