Glancing Back: Refrigeration Aids the War Effort

January 11, 2001
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This feature ties in with the “This Week in History” box on the front page to honor The News’ 75th anniversary. In each feature, news from past issues corresponding to the current week will be explored, reminding all of us from where the industry and The News has come, which might help us understand the industry today and tomorrow.

1942: Kick The Can

In the January 14, 1942 News, food refrigeration and freezing was hailed as a way to help the war effort, as opposed to canning or packaging using tin or glass. A rubber shortage had already been widely predicted, but a shortage of tin was also possible.

According to this issue, the Far East was a supplier of U.S. tin, and the smelters were a likely target for the Japanese. Though the United States could possibly get some tin from South America, it was to be earmarked for military, but not civilian, use. So the production of tin cans was sure to decrease. Packaging in glass was seen as one alternative, but glass production was not viewed as making up for the loss in tin production.

Expansion of quick-frozen foods, locker storage, and more commercial refrigeration applications were seen as a feasible alternative for solving the wartime food packaging dilemma.

1964: Refrigerant Not The Culprit

Family Weekly, a Sunday newspaper supplement, erroneously reported that a “Freon-type refrigerant” was responsible for the poisoning death of a Missouri family. Members of the air conditioning industry wrote in to the supplement disputing the report. Alert readers weighed in on the subject in the January 13, 1964 News, asserting that “Halogenated hydrocarbon refrigerants are not toxic and that total charge in a refrigerant would hardly be enough to asphyxiate the household.”

1981: Gas, Naturally

According to the American Gas Association (AGA) in the January 12, 1981 News, its earlier forecast of 231,000 households switching to gas heating in 1980 had to be revised. The AGA increased its projection by 65% to a total of about 382,000. These conversions represented 43% of total gas heating additions.

The breakdown by region of the 1980 conversions expected by AGA are as follows:

  • New England – 41,000;
  • Mid-Atlantic – 97,300;
  • East north central – 120,600;
  • West north central – 20,200;
  • South Atlantic – 82,800;
  • East south central – 1,900;
  • West south central – 1,200;
  • Pacific – 17,400; and
  • Mountain – fewer than 1,000
  • .

    Residential switchovers between 1960 and 1970 averaged 393,000 per year, but conversions plummeted in the 1970s. The lowest conversion rate was in 1977 with only 89,000, when utility restrictions had covered almost 50% of the utility franchise areas from 1974 to 1977.

    The gas industry looked to the oil-heated homes, mostly in the Northeast, as its next big source of switchovers. At the time, the association noted that a “significant factor influencing the current high demand for gas heat in existing homes is the price of heating oil, which has increased over 105% since 1977 as compared to the 42% increase in the price of gas, and is currently twice the cost of gas on a U.S. average million Btu basis.”

    Publication date: 01/15/2001

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