If little is accomplished at the upcoming economic summit in West Germany, Washington businessman Charles Gulledge won't be surprised.
Gulledge is president and chief executive of one of the most unusual enterprises in the Washington area, Dynalectron Corp. of McLean, with annual sales of some $300 million from diverse worldwide operations in engineering, research, contracting and technical services.
However, it is energy - specifically a process for creating oil from coal - that is attracting national attention to Dynalectron.
And President Carter's international economic problems remain firmly rooted in the administration's weak energy program, in the opinion of Gulledge.
West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, in previous meetings with Carter and Treasury Secretary W. Michael Blumenthal, has been critical of the U.S. failure to act on energy, stating that until Washington acts forcefully to chart energy independence other international economic ailments will continue and support for the dollar will be absent.
"Yet, nothing has happened," Gulledge said in an interview. "We are not approaching [the energy problem] as a moral equivalent of war. It's always tomorrow that we'll deal with it. Meanwhile, our problems grow more serious."
Gulledge's unhappiness with government energy policies is based on what he has learned from a 14-year-old pioneer effort by Dynalectron to develop petroleum from America's abundant reserves of coal.
With about half the effort devoted to landing man on the man, the United States "easily" could produce 2 million barrels per day of oil from coal by 1990, Gulledge said. The cost would be $20 billion for the plants plus $10 billion for associated coal mines.
But the total $30 billion outlay he argued, would be spread over more than a decade and represent less than 2 percent a totally new technology - just refinement of other attempts to make oil from coal. Germany produced oil from coal during. World War II and, since 1955, South Africa has been producing fuel oils from coal. With government financing but a much smaller GNP than that of the U.S., South Africa plans from coal by the end of the 1980s.
Dynalectron's efforts began in 1963 when a subsidiary, Hydrocarbon Research Inc., conceived and developed a process called H-Coal. A pilot plant, under construction at Catlettsburg, Ky., will become the largest coal conversion facility in this country when completed early next year.
Using the H-Coal process, coal will be dried, pulverized and transformed into slurry for pumping into a specially designed reactor, which was installed in Kentucky last fall.The slurry (a mixture of small coal pellets and water) is mixed with hydrogen and converted into liquid and gas products - either low sulfur fuel oil, crude for refining into gasoline or petrochemical feedstocks or clean fuel gas and ammonia.
The Kentucky factory will convert up to 600 tons a day of coal into about 1,800 barrels a day of oil. But the plant's real importance will be in providing the operating data necessary for engineering larger, commercial plants.
A $178 million project, the pilot plant is being funded by the federal government ($142 million) and the State of Kentucky, Electric Power Research Institute, Standard Oil Co. of Indiana, a subsidiary of Ashland Oil, Continental Oil and Mobil Corp. Dynalectron's subsidiary is providing the technology, engineering and procurement and the Ashland subsidiary, plant construction and operation.
An earlier effort to make liquid fuel from coal, led by Union Carbide Corp. and aided by a $237 million government contract, was aborted before construction began last year following publication of a critical General Accounting Office study, which said there could be no successful demonstration of oil-from-coal by 1983 - an official U.S. goal.
But Gulledge said government planners and energy industry leaders are wrong in trying to postpone massive conversion of coal into oil until 2000 or later.
"I don't think they've thought about it . . . we face a zero-growth scenario in which standards of living must decline . . . American citizens won't accept that," when there can be synthetic fuel by 1990, Gulledge asserted.
Dynalectron is not alone in offering processes to make fuel from coal and Gulledge said he favors government aid to fund large demonstration projects for all the leading technologies. Exxon Corp., the world's largest oil firm, is planning a $240 million plant to convert 250 tons of coal a day to more than 600 barrels of oil, using a similar process.
In addition, the Department of Energy on Monday awarded $6 million to Southern Co., an Atlanta utility firm and Gulf Oil Corp., for designs of possible large plants to produce fuel from coal using a process called solvent-refined-coal and producing 20,000 barrels a day from 6,000 tons of coal at each plant; Gulf's plant would be located near Morgantown, W. Va.
Energy Secretary James Schesinger said the government may share costs of the plants (up to $700 million each) and recover some of its investment through sharing revenues.
While the proposed Southern Co. and Gulf plants could be operating by 1983, Gulledge pointed out that a large H-Coal plant started by mid-1979 could be producing liquid fuel within 36 months.
Gulledge headed Emerson Electric Co.'s electronic and avionics division before joining Dynalectron in 1960 as president. He became chief executive of the local firm in 1974.
Incorporated in 1946 as California Eastern Airways, Dynalectron was engaged in aviation services throughout the 1950s and participated in the U.S. military airlift between America and the Far East during the Korean Was. The firm acquired a technical services company in 1951 and took its current name in 1961. Hydrocarbon Research, founded in 1943, was acquired in 1964.
Currently, Dynalectron has 7,000 employes working in divisions and subsidiaries of three major groups - electrical contracting ($124 million of revenues last year, fifth largest in the business); technical services for industry and government, from aviation to telecommunications ($76 million in evenues last year, $53 million from search group. These operations produced profits of $2.7 million (38 cents a share) in 1977, up 8 percent from 1976.
Overall revenues rose 162 percent in the last five years but Defense Department work accounted for only 18 percent of revenues last year compared with 31 percent in 1973. Dynalectron had a backlog of orders last Dec. 31 of $219 million and Gulledge said he expects continued industrial-commercial expansion as well as expansion of the types of services now offered. "The more diverse services we offer, the more stability the company will have," he said.