Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, Transmitted to Congress, With the Annual Message of the President, December 3, 1888, Part I
Mr. Anderson to Mr. Bayard.
Copenhagen, September 13, 1887. (Received September 28.)
Sir: I have the honor to send you herewith inclosed a copy of the petroleum bill now pending in the Danish legislature, together with the Government’s remarks thereon. I also inclose for your information a complete translation of these documents. Awaiting your further instructions,
I have, etc.,
a bill to regulate the trade in petroleum, etc.
[Introduced in the Danish legislature by the ministry of justice.]
Sec. 1. Petroleum which under the test prescribed in section 2, in an atmosphere rep’ resented by a barometer height of 760 millimeters, gives off ignitible vapors at a temperature lower than 23° Celsius, shall not be sold for use in quantities less than the minimum prescribed for its sale at wholesale.
In larger quantities it shall only be sold in packages plainly marked with the word “Explosive” in letters proportionate to the size of the package.
Sec. 2. The temperature at which petroleum first gives off ignitible vapors shall be determined by tests in the so-called “Abel’s apparatus.”
By a special ordinance rules will be given for the making of these tests, and a ratio fixed for the raising or lowering of the temperature spoken of in section 1, according as the barometer is below or above 760 millimeters.
Sec. 3. The pro visions of section 1, second part, apply also to naphtha and benzine as well as to other products obtained from petroleum by distillation which, under the test mentioned in section 1, give off ignitible vapors at a temperature less than 23° Celsius. When sold for use in quantities less than the minimum prescribed for their sale at wholesale, their packages, besides being marked as above, shall bear in legible letters the words “Must not be brought near an open light.” The provisions of this paragraph may, by special ordinance, be extended so as to include other liquid hydrocarbons.
Sec. 4. Infringements of this law or its relative ordinances are, providing heavier punishments are not administered under the provisions of the penal law, punishable [Page 474] by fines of from 10 to 200 kroner, all cases of infringement to be treated as public police cases.
Persons accused of infringement of this law shall, when tests in connection with the case are to he made under police inspection be given due notice to be present at the same.
Sec. 5. This law, which does not apply to the Faroe Islands, goes into effect three months after its publication in the “Law Tidings” (Lovtidenden).
From the same time the “law governing the trade in petroleum and other illuminating liquids” of November 12, 1870, is repealed.
Bill. Regular session, 1886–’87 (2).
government’s remarks on the preceding bill.
By a law of November 26, 1870, section 1, it is ordained that petroleum and other illuminating liquids giving off ignitible vapors at a temperature lower than 40° Celsius shall, under a fine of from 20 to 200 rigsdalers, be not sold for use except in holders which, in legible letters proportionate to the holder’s size, shall be marked with the word “Dangerous “(Farlig).
In conformity with this paragraph’s second part, there are, by a royal ordinance of September 4, 1871 (see the proclamation of September 8, that year), given rules for the construction of that apparatus with which tests of the temperature at which petroleum and other illuminating liquids give off ignitible vapors are to be made, as are also rules for the making of such tests.
In the years which have elapsed since this law was passed, the use of petroleum as an illuminating agent has, as is well known, greatly increased.
At the same time its production has, of course, kept pace; hue, inasmuch as the raw petroleum, besides the illuminating oil proper (kerosene), contains a very considerable quantity—as high as 45 per cent.—of other oils which are of a comparatively low value, attempts have been made to mix these with the illuminating oil, thus producing an article of much greater ignitibility, and therefore far more dangerous than the unadulterated oil.
As a natural consequence of this the attention of the authorities in the various countries has steadily been devoted toward the passing of such regulations as would secure consumers against these dangers, and experience has of late years led to the passage of new laws governing the trade in petroleum and similar explosive liquids in several countries, among them both of our neighbors, Germany (1882) and Sweden (1885).
Now, as the tests upon which these newer laws are based have shown that the laws in force with us do not insure sufficient security, the ministry, whose attention was called to the matter by a lecture given before the Insurance Companies’ Union, required an opinion in the matter from the Polytechnic Institute, and in pursuance of the explanation and the recommendations therein made, have deemed it necessary to propose radical changes in the present legislation upon the subject, looking, toward the establishment of greater security against the dangers arising from the use of petroleum and its relative oils, as well as more perfect agreement with similar legislation in our nearest neighboring countries.
The law of November 26, 1870, in fixing the “test” of petroleum at 40° C. had reference to the open apparatus then in use for testing; but later experiments have demonstrated that no open apparatus can give sufficiently reliable results, and least of all the one there authorized.
This tester far from satisfies the demands made upon it to-day, (1) because it does not give results which agree with each other, inasmuch as tests with the same oil can often vary as much as 3° C, and even this exactness can only be attained after considerable experience; (2) because the law fixes 40° as the lowest limit for the ignition of the vapors, while oil that scarcely satisfies tests which in reality demonstrate a safe article shows a temperature of 53°, so that a dealer whose object was alone his pecuniary advantage might, without breach of law, import an oil of 13° lower test, which in use would prove extremely dangerous. This latter defect might easily be remedied administratively by simply ordering a few minor changes in the dimensions of the tester’s various parts, but the first difficulty can only be removed by ordering the tests to be made in a closed apparatus.
This, however, can not be accomplished unless a change be made in the legal test temperature, which in such case must be set considerably lower (21°-23° Celsius), and the ministry of justice has therefore, as was also advised by the Polytechnic Institute, deemed it most advisable to introduce a bill to alter the law, the more as such a step is indicated by the wish, above all, to seek the exclusion of dangerous petroleum from the retail trade, and thus from daily use.
Thus the present bill has been prepared. While ordering that tests shall he made in a certain closed apparatus it fixes the test at 23° Celsius.
In this connection it is to be remarked that the test is not fixed at the same point [Page 475] in the various countries. In Germany it is 21° C.; it is 22° in Sweden, and about 23° in England.
In Germany, however, there seems to be great dissatisfaction with the too low limit, inasmuch as rather poor oil can stand the test, and a movement has been set on foot, seconded by the Polytechnic Institute, to have the test raised to 23°.
As regards the testing apparatus which it is proposed to introduce, the so-called “Abel’s” apparatus, it is that which is commonly regarded as the most exact and best, and is authorized by law, both in Germany and Sweden, as well as being used in the United States for testing all oil destined for the English market. There can therefore, in the opinion of the ministry, be no doubt as to the advisability of choosing it.
True, it is somewhat dearer than the Danish tester now in use; but this fact, it would seem, should prove no hinderance to its acceptance, as it is more especially designed for use in the official control where experts are appointed. For private use much cheaper apparatus might be procured, which could be used, some directly on their own merits (Doxrud’s apparatus), and some after once for all having been compared with Abel’s. That more detailed rules for the use of the authorized apparatus, and among them provisions for changes in the test temperature, according as the barometer varies, should be given by special ordinance, will, it is to be presumed, be deemed natural, and fully coincides with the institutions of Germany and Sweden.
Besides the already-mentioned regulations as to petroleum temperature test, the bill contains, as will be noticed, a prohibition of the sale at retail of petroleum, which does not satisfy the provisions of the bill.
The law of November 26, 1870, allowed, as is known, the sale at retail of such petroleum, providing its holders were marked with the word “Dangerous “(Farlig). The ministry supposes, however, that the uses which can be made of such explosive petroleum in the arts are only of such nature that the act of forcing its users to buy their supplies at wholesale can not be productive of any inconvenience, and by thus entirely excluding this product from the retail trade an advantage is undeniably gained in a much stronger guaranty that it will not be purposely or carelessly used for illuminating purposes than if its sale at retail were allowed, even under limited conditions. Still it has been deemed most advisable to retain the above-mentioned rule as to the marking of the packages of such oil when sold at wholesale. In addition, section 3 of the bill contains provisions as to the trade in naphtha, benzine, and similar products obtained by the distillation of raw petroleum.
The reason for these liquids not being included under the same, rules as petroleum, as is the case in the law of November 12, 1870, is that they naturally give off ignitible vapors at a temperature far below 23° Celsius, and at the same time, although only to a small degree used as illuminating agents, they have such varied uses in the household as would render it impossible to exclude them from the retail trade.
It is necessary therefore to limit restrictions in this regard to the simple maintenance of the provisions of the law of November 12, 1870, i. e., that all packages of such liquids should bear a warning label.
The other provisions of the bill, which, in the main, are the same as those contained in the law of November 12, 1870, need, it is believed, no explanation.