John Welch's Top Ten - Shortages
Just in time for summer, the price of chlorine is rising — and so are the costs of maintaining your pool.
A shortage of chlorine has sent prices soaring, and it is mostly due to a fire last August at the Bio-Lab factory in Westlake, Louisiana.
Summer is the season to hit the open road. This year, you may need a little more patience than normal, though.
There is a good chance a growing number of stations across the nation will run out of gas this summer. But it’s not the gasoline itself that is the problem — it is a lack of drivers to deliver the fuel.
During the pandemic, millions of cars stayed mostly in “park” mode. That meant less demand for gas and thus less work for the truck drivers who normally deliver it. Many drivers decided to leave the industry.
Now, with demand rising, there are not enough drivers to keep up. CNN reports that up to 25% of tank trucks are not moving because of a lack of qualified drivers. And that already has meant shortages of fuel at some gas stations.
3. Rental cars
Would you pay $300 to rent a car? Did we mention that is a daily rate?
As we recently reported, the cost of renting a car has gone from zero to 60, seemingly overnight. During the pandemic, few folks wanted to drive their own car, let alone a rental. The rental car industry sold around one-third of its combined fleets to generate cash. Zoom ahead to today, and there are more drivers chasing fewer rental cars. And that’s a classic recipe for the almost comically high prices now on offer.
4. Chicken wings
A “perfect storm” of Texas-sized wild winter weather and soaring demand for chicken wings has put the bar-food staple in short supply.
The freakish winter weather in Texas and other nearby chicken-producing states reduced the supply of chickens at a time when people stuck at home were desperate for comfort food.
America’s love of chicken wings continues to burn bright, and Business Insider reports that some restaurants are responding to the lack of chicken by raising prices, while others are simply worried they won’t be able to meet demand.
5. Bacon and hot dogs
From one beloved — if unhealthful — food to two more: Bacon and hot dogs also are in increasingly short supply.
Oh, the humanity!
The supply of these meats has been spotty since last year, and things may soon get worse. Although the pandemic appears to be waning in the U.S., many Americans still feel more comfortable gathering outside rather than indoors. That means more grilling with meats like hot dogs and bacon.
And that in turn stokes demand for things in dwindling supply. As Isaac Olvera, food, and agriculture economist at ArrowStream, told Business Insider:
“The whole supply chain has really been squeezed, and unfortunately it does not look like this is going to be something that improves between here and early summer.”
Many of the items on this list are luxuries, but here is a true necessity. A shortage of oxygen is a frightening prospect, but the surge in COVID-19 cases in some countries — especially India — means demand for oxygen is greatly pressuring a lack of supply.
According to a May 4 report from The New York Times:
“The World Health Organization said in February that $1.6 billion would be needed to remedy the oxygen shortage for a year; now that estimate is up to $6.5 billion. Efforts to raise that money have faltered, though it is a small fraction of what has been spent on vaccines and financial support for businesses and workers.”
7. Shipping containers
A shortage of shipping containers is the result of good news.
The containers — metal boxes that help ship about 90% of goods around the global economy, according to Bloomberg — have been in high demand as the result of a trade boom that unexpectedly began in the second half of 2020.
Consumers stuck at home created a surprising level of demand for products such as computers, equipment to work at home or decorate houses, and imports of pandemic-related goods such as protective masks.
Chinese companies make most of these containers, and they are now scrambling to meet the unexpected demand. But the most recent reports suggest the shortage may continue into 2022.
We don’t often think of blood as a “product,” but it is when people need it. And when lives are on the line, blood suddenly becomes more precious than gold.
Sadly, the coronavirus pandemic has created a crisis for blood banks in many places. The Red Cross said in mid-April that blood centers nationwide continue to report low donor turnouts.
So, if you can give blood, plasma, or platelets, please do. As a bonus, your donation may net you a free coronavirus antibody test. For more, check out “A Free Way to Tell If You Have COVID-19 Antibodies.”
9. New cars
Cannot wait to get your mitts on the steering wheel of a new car? You may have to keep those dreams in neutral.
A global shortage of semiconductor chips — which are used in everything from a vehicle’s power steering to entertainment systems — means inventory is not meeting demand, and it is getting harder to find new cars.
Colorado resident Chase Weldon told CNBC he struggled to find a new SUV for his family. In some cases, salespeople told him the vehicle he wanted already had been sold. At other dealerships, salespeople refused to budge on price.
“It was definitely a different car-buying experience,” Weldon recalled to CNBC.
Another factor driving the price of homes higher is rising lumber costs. pandemic-snarled supply chains — and heavy demand from consumers — have caused lumber supplies to fall. As a result, lumber prices are soaring.
A recent analysis by the National Association of Home Builders found that exploding lumber prices have pushed the price of an average new single-family home a mind-boggling $35,872 higher.
Rising lumber costs also make home renovation projects costlier.
11. Pet food
The world went to the dogs in 2020 — literally. Families and individuals cooped up in their homes suddenly decided they wanted canine companionship, which created shortages of adoptable hounds in some parts of the country.
However, a new pet-related shortage has now emerged. Stores are finding it difficult to keep pet food on their shelves.
12. COVID-19 vaccine
In a perfect world, there would be enough COVID-19 vaccine that everyone around the globe could rush out and get vaccinated today. But if 2020 taught us anything, it’s that we do not live in a perfect world.
The effort to create, test and distribute a vaccine for the disease caused by the coronavirus has been nothing short of heroic. But there still is only so much vaccine to go around, which has led to rationing. And in places like India, that lack of supply has had tragic consequences.
The asking price for newly listed homes has continued to reach records, with a short supply of homes for sale being a key contributing factor.
While the lack of housing supply dates back more than a decade, rock-bottom mortgage rates that coincided with the pandemic exacerbated the problem.
14. Aluminum cans
Like so many things in the pandemic, aluminum suddenly has become scarce. That has become a problem for companies that sell beverages in aluminum cans.
Both Ball Corp. and Molson Coors, two of the world’s biggest aluminum can producers, say they are struggling to keep up with demand. Daniel Fisher, Ball Corp. president, fears the problem will last at least into 2023.
15. Pickle jars
When Burger King decided to roll out its new hand-breaded chicken sandwich, it found itself in … well, a pickle.
A shortage of pickles means the sandwich may make its debut a little late in some parts of the country, such as western Michigan.
Jim MacDonald, the vice president of operations for Burger King Grand Rapids, told a local TV station that the pickles used in the sandwich are “very special bigger, crunchier, zesty pickles.” And those have proved hard to acquire:
“The problem was we couldn’t get the pickles because they couldn’t get the jars during the pandemic.”
The high seas are one place the virus will have a hard time finding you, assuming you do not end up on a cruise ship. But sailing out to your watery paradise has gotten tougher during the pandemic.
Boat sellers throughout Florida report waiting lists for new watercraft. Scott Ritter, who sells new boats at Ingman Marine in Port Charlotte, Florida, told the local newspaper in February that new orders could take four to six months to be delivered.
Lack of key supplies coupled with a surging demand once again is the source of the problem. Things may be getting a bit better, notes Joel DeYoung, a salesperson at 1st Klas Marina in Pike County, Pennsylvania. But he said this month that waiting lists are still not unusual:
“We did see a backup, basically a backorder on certain things. Obviously, with high demand and low inventory is a little bit tough, but you know we’re kind of working through it.”
Finally, one of the oldest forms of transportation — the beloved bicycle — has suddenly become one of the scarcest.
Sales of adult leisure bikes soared 121% early in the pandemic, and the wheels came off the supply of new bikes as a result.
In mid-September last year, Jimmy Revard, co-owner of The Bike Line in Indianapolis, told Bicycling magazine:
“If a customer were to order a new bike today, the earliest we would likely receive it is December and maybe even as late as May.”
This month, Justyna Frank of Cosmic Bikes in Chicago said flatly: “If you’re looking for a $300 or $400 bike, it probably does not exist.”
The bike and parts shortage is expected to last — hold on to your handlebars — until possibly 2022.