Pandemic has created a shortage in CO2, needed for water supply and to produce fresh food, preserved food and beverages

Food production and water processing facilities are warning that they won't be able to meet demand in the coming months. Why not? Because they are not getting sufficient carbon dioxide, which is used in their production processes. Why isn't there enough carbon dioxide? Because carbon dioxide manufacturers rely on ethanol production to collect the gas and ethanol production has decreased. Why has ethanol production decreased? Two reasons. Ethanol production was already ramping down because Russia and Saudi Arabia were flooding the market with inexpensive gasoline. And then people stop driving because of the coronavirus pandemic and ethanol production decreased even more.

This Guardian article reports that CO2 production could decline by as much as 2/3 in the coming months, and food and beverage manufacturers and water processing facilities are concerned:

[CEO of the Compressed Gas Association (CGA), Rich] Gottwald, along with a number of associations representing food and beverage industries, which together use 77% of food-grade CO2, issued a joint warning to the federal government about the shortage.

In an open letter to the vice-president, Mike Pence, the coalition warns: “Preliminary data show that production of CO2 has decreased by approximately 20%, and experts predict that CO2 production may be reduced by 50% by mid-April.”

It continues: “A shortage in CO2 would impact the US availability of fresh food, preserved food and beverages, including beer production.”

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Watch Johnny Carson joke about the toilet paper shortage

No, that isn't a deepfake. In 1973, the stock market crashed and an Arab oil embargo resulted in a gas crisis. With that as the context, a (false) rumor of a toilet paper shortage emerged and spread like wildfire via news outlets before it was further fueled by Johnny Carson (who later apologized). It's a fascinating story of shortage psychology and panic buying. From Priceonomics:

In November of 1973, several news agencies reported a tissue shortage in Japan. Initially, the release went unnoticed and nobody seemed to put much stock in it -- save for one Harold V. Froelich. Froelich, a 41-year-old Republican congressman, presided over a heavily-forested district in Wisconsin and had recently been receiving complaints from constituents about a reduced stream of pulp paper. On November 16th, he released his own press statement -- “The Government Printing Office is facing a serious shortage of paper” -- to little fanfare.

However, a few weeks later, Froelich uncovered a document that indicated the government’s National Buying Center had fallen far short of securing bids to provide toilet paper for its troops and bureaucrats. On December 11, he issued another, more serious press release: “The U.S. may face a serious shortage of toilet paper within a few months...we hope we don’t have to ration toilet tissue...a toilet paper shortage is no laughing matter. It is a problem that will potentially touch every American.”

In the climate of shortages, oil scares, and economic duress, Froelich’s claim was absorbed without an iota of doubt, and the media ran wild with it.

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