The U.K. and Europe lose their fizz as a CO2 shortage rocks pubs, restaurants

Anyone who’s visited the United Kingdom or Western Europe knows that their pubs serve as more just a place to hoist a pint — they are the living room for millions, a place to socialize with family and friends, take a load off, and watch a soccer game. Unfortunately, the region is facing a big bummer during an increasingly hot summer as a gas crisis is poised to kill the buzz at the local.

Specifically, the region is being rocked by a lack of carbon dioxide (CO2), the industrial, food-grade gas used in the production of everything from Heineken beer to Orangina’s fizzy soda pop. The situation is so bad that Wetherspoons, the chain of posh pubs located throughout the U.K., says it will soon be forced to pull a number of beers and fizzy drinks from its menu. This week, Britain’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs set up an emergency committee to examine the scale of the problem.

The crisis is a result of a chain of events that almost no one in the industry anticipated. Here’s the deal: CO2 is primarily produced by ammonia plants, although small batches are also created by subsidiary producers like chemical operations, bi-ethanol plants and, ironically, as a by-product from whiskey distilleries in Scotland.

However, ammonia is used in fertilizer production, an industry whose peak output runs from August to March. Accordingly, fertilizer manufacturers plan maintenance or factory shutdowns to run from April to June or so.

But, but, but … this same period is the peak time for the production of soft and alcoholic drinks. Now, this is a coincidence the manufacturers know about, and normally they plan accordingly. What’s mucked up the works this year is not only the timing of planned maintenance, but the fact that ammonia market prices have fallen to a low, while imports from outside of Western Europe prompted manufacturers to prolong this year’s downtime. Add to these economics the fact that natural gas prices (a major raw component in ammonia production) are running high, and there’s not much of an incentive for CO2 plants to ramp up production.

Things are looking a bit grim in the U.K., where only one major CO2 plant is still in production, and brewers like Heineken are calling the crisis “a major issue.” The U.K. is more troubled than its European allies in that there are limited shipments across the Channel due to plant shut-downs in Benelux and France. For Britain, it’s a grim reminder of a similar crisis in 2015 that was mostly limited to the mainland. More than 80 percent of beer consumed in the U.K. is produced in-country according to the British Beer and Pub Association.

Ceasing beer production in the middle of the World Cup is already a crisis of major proportions, but the CO2 situation is about to impact the U.K.’s grocery stores as well. The gas is vital to meat production, as it is used for both slaughtering and packaging, with the British Poultry Council issuing stark warnings that up to sixty percent of poultry processing plants could be offline within days due to the gas shortage.

Fioan Steigler, deputy director of the British Meat Processors Association doubled down on the crisis this week.

“We are getting very concerned,” she said. “Supply is running out and it’s pretty tight for some people. Others hope to see it out. We don’t know when supplies will be back up. We’ve been told it could be about a month.”


Fiat wants to transform the cheeky 500 city car into an urban Tesla

Fiat is finally preparing a new 500. Scheduled to make its debut in early 2020, the retro-chic city car will go electric in part to comply with looming emissions regulations.
Movies & TV

'Prime'-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

There's more to Amazon Prime than free two-day shipping, including access to a number of phenomenal shows at no extra cost. To make the sifting easier, here are our favorite shows currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Movies & TV

Stay inside this winter with the best shows on Hulu, including 'Legion'

It's often overwhelming to navigate Hulu's robust library of TV shows. To help, we put together a list of the best shows on Hulu, whether you're into frenetic cartoons, intelligent dramas, or anything in between.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix right now (March 2019)

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Netflix in March, from Buster Scruggs to Roma

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Emerging Tech

Inflating smart pills could be a painless alternative to injections

Could an inflating pill containing hidden microneedles replace painful injections? The creators of the RaniPill robotic capsule think so — and they have the human trials to prove it.

Yes, Apple’s new iMacs look great, but they do have one glaring problem

With processors ranging up to the eight-core Core i9, the 2019 iMac update looks like a pretty solid upgrade to Apple's classic all-in-one. But hidden in the details of the product page, there's one outdated component Apple is holding onto.

Here’s all the news from the Google Stadia GDC presentation

Google announced its new game streaming service Stadia during GDC 2019. Here is all the news from the event, including news on YouTube streaming and quickly accessing your favorite new games.
Movies & TV

Stranger Things season 3 teaser proclaims it's almost feeding time in Hawkins

With a sophomore season as strong as its first, Stranger Things is now moving on to season 3. Here's everything we've learned so far about the Netflix series' upcoming third season, premiering in July 2019.
Movies & TV

Disney completes its $71.3 billion purchase of 21st Century Fox

Now that Walt Disney Company has closed its $71.3 billion purchase of 21st Century Fox's movie and television assets, what does this future hold for franchises like X-Men, the Fantastic Four, The Simpsons, and the rest?
Movies & TV

In the new Hellboy clip, a giant problem leaves our favorite demon unimpressed

Hellboy is returning to the big screen in April 2019, with Stranger Things actor David Harbour taking on the title role. Here's everything we know so far about the reboot of the franchise.
Home Theater

Pandora now lets you mess with the secret sauce for its music playlists

Pandora introduced a new feature called Modes, allowing subscribers to pick between six different algorithms that determine what the popular music streaming service will decide to play.

Genius Pack Supercharged will power up your phone and tablet simultaneously

With enough juice to power a smartphone up to four times and dual USB charges, the Genius Pack Supercharged carry-on bag can charge two devices simultaneously. The bag also uses eight 360-degree wheels and has a tough exterior shell.

Patreon is having another go at changing the way it charges creators

Patreon messed up pretty badly the last time it tried to change its payment system. Now it's having another go, though this time the changes mainly affect future sign-ups rather than its current community of creators.