CO2 Shortage by Tom Reynolds
A “perfect storm” is leading to a CO2 shortage.
Jackson Dome, located near Jackson, Mississippi on an extinct volcano, is a large and relatively pure source of naturally occurring CO2 and is the only significant underground deposit of CO2 in the United States east of the Mississippi River. It has become contaminated. The supplier of this gas shut down in July. Failure to address contamination issues can leave a product at risk of bad tastes, strange odors, spoilage, and product recalls.
Another CO2 supplier’s plant in Illinois suffered a mechanical failure that will shut the plant down until mid-September.
CO2 as a byproduct of Ethanol production. Ethanol plants had to shut down during the pandemic because there wasn't a big demand for gas due to people staying home and not driving.
Besides the CO2 shortage, there are other issues.
The price of aluminum cans has increased. The DailyMail cited that inflation has driven aluminum can prices up by 20 percent. The COVID pandemic kept people at home and there was a rise in at-home drinking causing a can shortage.
If that wasn’t enough, a lack of delivery drivers has also had an impact. To make matters worse, a union of delivery and warehouse workers went on strike in Philadelphia, mid-year. And labor shortages are happening across the board as a result of the pandemic.
Okay, there’s a CO2, aluminum and driver shortage. So…?
The weather didn't cooperate for growing barley in the Northern Plains and Pacific Northwest last year. With high heat and dry conditions, the barley crops got scorched.
Barley…isn’t that used in…?
Barley is used in beer.
CO2 contributes to beer foam, shelf stability and it’s used throughout the production and packaging process. It is essential to modern beer making. A handful of big brewers are insulated from the shortage because they use innovative technology to capture natural carbon dioxide from the brewing process and store it for future use. Denver Beer Co. in Colorado uses reclaimed CO2 and sells extra supply to a cannabis company for use in the grow houses. (It’s a relief that beer and marijuana are supportive of each other in this time of crisis.)
Beer is packaged in aluminum cans.
Beer is transported by delivery drivers. And remember, Pete Buttigieg is working on the delivery problems. Gulp!
Net result: at worst a beer shortage and at best an increase in the price of beer. Beer prices have risen less than the broader food and beverage market, but food has risen so sharply that isn’t much consolation. And that could get worse as the rising cost of these issues leads to a more expensive pint.
You don’t drink? Besides beer, soft drinks and seltzers also rely on CO2 for carbonation. Without it, the drinks fall flat.
CO2 is also used to help preserve certain frozen foods like pizza.
A beer and pizza shortage!
Wait a minute, isn’t CO2 one of the boogeymen that the green environmentalists are trying to eliminate?
Yes. California just passed a law allowing human bodies to be composted instead of cremated because cremation releases so much CO2. Californians can now be composted! (I was tempted to make a joke about a friend who grows tomatoes but…)
Don’t plants use CO2 and convert it to oxygen?
In the competition for CO2, will people have to choose between air and beer?