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Another tough winter is coming for Americans and on top of everything else our country has been facing recently, our supply chain problems are about to escalate to a whole new level as a very alarming energy crisis is rapidly spreading all over the world. Supplies for energy, mainly natural gas and coal, are getting increasingly tighter and prices are surging at breakneck speed. This is causing a power shortage that is dramatically affecting manufacturing in major exporting countries, including China. As a result, the flow of goods from one nation to another is getting even more strained just as we started to approach the busiest shopping season of the year, which means that shortages in our stores are going to become a whole lot worse. US consumers are already witnessing empty shelves all around the country, and we may have to deal with even more shortages in the coming weeks, given that more and more goods are disappearing from inventories and never being restocked. Industry experts have been calling this phenomenon “the everything shortage,” and ever since it began last year, it has been intensifying with each passing week.
Shoppers have been describing that every time they go to their local grocery stores, a wider range of products isn’t available. Some consumer favorites cannot be found anywhere at this point, and customers are getting increasingly frustrated. In Charleston, West Virginia, local reports describe that at the Bigley Piggly Wiggly the entire bottled drink section is close to empty. “Who would think that a Gatorade shortage would be a problem to get in the store? But apparently, it is and it is something that we have been wrestling with for quite some time now,” said Jeff Joseph, store owner. The entire market is facing a shortage of plastic bottles. According to industry insiders, a variety of issues have been aggravating the problem in recent months and making it more difficult to keep shelves fully stocked.
The United States has been facing a plastic shortage since August 2020, and due to factory shutdowns, wildfires, and shipping delays, the issue was never resolved. Supply chain challenges are different week to week, that’s why most grocers are having a hard to predict what items will be missing so that they could place their orders in advance. “One week we may have the plastic items in and the pet food section is suffering. The next week it may be boxed goods. So you just kind of, it really just depends and we don’t know at this point,” Joseph added.
We have never seen such extensive shortages in the US, but everyone in the industry keeps telling us that the worst is yet to come. With all that in mind, the reason why shortages aren’t going to go away any time soon becomes more evident. There’s no easy way to fix these bottlenecks. Some say we will keep facing supply chain challenges for at least the next two to three years — but that only in case things don’t get even worse in the near future. To make things even more complicated, an acute shortage of coal is sending energy prices to sky-highs. In China, the coal shortage and rising energy prices have caused extensive power outages on a scale unseen in more than a decade, which has prompted some cities to turn off traffic lights to conserve power.
But the impact on manufacturing is truly alarming. Some say this is the most dramatic energy crisis in modern times. In recent weeks, Chinese officials have begun a much more aggressive rationing program, with factories only allowed to use power for 1 or 2 days a week in all major manufacturing regions and other important heavy industrial, chemical, and energy-product hubs. As a consequence, China will be exported significantly fewer products to America, and our store shelves are only will get barer and barer. For years, specialists have been warning that outsourcing our production to China would put us in a crisis like this, but no one really listened. Now, these constant disruptions have become the new normal, and this means our future is going to be exceedingly painful. The widespread shortages are just beginning, and the global economy will never be the same after this.