Enjoy bananas now because they could be wiped out in as little as five to 10 years. Wild coffee could be extinct by 2080, and good luck finding a good bottle of Californian chardonnay in the future because climate change is set to destroy the state's wine crops.
If that wasn't bad enough, beer-drinkers in the UK are now being warned that a European carbon dioxide (CO2) shortage could threaten supplies of their favorite tipple, reports Gas World. Experts are calling it the “worst supply situation to hit the European carbon dioxide (CO2) business in decades.”
CO2 is essential for the fizz in fizzy drinks or soda. (That's right, this particular dilemma is going to be problematic for drinkers of any type of fizzy beverage.) The stuff in your beer or Coca-Cola must be food-grade quality, meaning it has to be purified and regulated according to local standards so that it is free from any harmful contaminants. And so food and drink manufacturers source CO2 not from the atmosphere but from industrial manufacturing plants, where it is produced as a byproduct and then dissolved in liquid. Most CO2 is found in ammonia plants.
Which brings us to the source of the issue. At least five of the major gas producers in the north of Europe have shut down over the summer in order to sort out some maintenance problems. This is all part of the "usual" process, Gas World reports, but the problem has been exacerbated by the temporary closure of several other bio-ethanol and chemical plants that normally offer an alternative supply of the gas (again, for repair work). While the shortage affects the whole of Europe to some extent, the UK is expected to be the worst hit because of where it sits geographically in relation to CO2-producing plants.
The country has started to see some of the effects. According to an article in CNBC, Booker – the wholesaler owned by Tesco – has already begun rationing beer and cider, limiting customers to five cases of cider or soft drinks and 10 cases of beer.
So, how long is this expected to last? Well, according to the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA), who issued a statement on June 21, it will most likely last around four weeks. (CO2 is also used in the packaging of meat to preserve its color and freshness.) Meanwhile, Gavin Partington, director general at the British Soft Drinks Association, has assured customers in a statement, saying “soft drinks producers in the UK are taking active steps to maintain their service to customers including working with their suppliers to mitigate the impact as well as looking at alternative sources.”
The good news is that things should soon be back to business as normal. The bad news is not in time for the World Cup.