The news headlines are ominous.
“The US now has just 25 days of diesel supply — the lowest since 2008.”
“US diesel supplier warns businesses to prepare for shortages, higher prices for consumers.”
“A Natural Gas Shortage Is Looming for the U.S.”
“Utility CEO warns natural gas shortage could put New England at risk of blackouts this winter.”
Typically, we tell our readers to stay aware, but we also tell them to be mindful of their sources. This isn’t “fake news.” And it isn’t sensationalized headlines to work you into a panic.
The diesel fuel and natural gas shortages are real—in fact, according to the Washington Post, "Inventories of diesel in the United States are the lowest they have been heading into winter in 70 years."
It's time to face reality. Very soon, we’re all going to feel the pain.
The Current Diesel Fuel Shortage
Here’s a quick breakdown of where we are with the shortage.
- Distillate inventories are currently at their lowest levels since the spring of 2008.
Additionally, distillate inventories are at their lowest October level since the EIA started reporting and sharing this data in 1982.
- Diesel reserves have not been this low since 1951.
- Distillate inventories include diesel fuel, jet fuel, and heating fuel.
- According to MoneyWise, “In 2021, the U.S. transportation sector alone consumed 46.82 billion gallons, or 1.11 billion barrels of distillate fuel (essentially diesel fuel) — at an average of about 128 million gallons a day.”
- Diesel prices are currently above $5.00 a gallon across the nation.
- Diesel prices have increased by 33% for November deliveries.
- The EIA data for October 25 showed the United States only had 25 days’ diesel supply left.
Now take all these facts and combine them with warnings from diesel suppliers, and you can see we’ve got a major problem looming.
Consider the following quotes from an advisory sent to businesses by the fuel supplier Mansfield Energy last week.
“For diesel specifically, the shortage will be painful at the macro level, but hopefully manageable at the micro level. Put another way – a tight diesel supply will force prices to go up, which will eventually make it too expensive for some people. […] At the US economy level, that means pain as consumers cut back and businesses slash costs.”
“That’s not to say there won’t occasionally be situations where there is a true physical lack of products. Some cities might run dry on diesel for a few days, at least at the terminal level. […] Once again, those shortages will drive up prices, which will make it economical to long-haul product from surrounding markets which do have supply. The fuel will be delivered but at higher costs.”
We cannot stick our heads in the sand and ignore the coming diesel fuel shortage.
Why Diesel Fuel Is Running Low
There are several reasons why this is happening.
First, production still has not returned to pre-pandemic levels. Several diesel refineries have closed completely. And the ongoing situation in Ukraine has made it even worse.
Oil Price explains, “Prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the U.S. was importing nearly 700,000 barrels per day (BPD) of petroleum and petroleum products. Most of those imports were finished products and refinery inputs that boosted distillate supplies in the U.S. The loss of those Russian imports have caused problems for refineries as they struggle to fill holes in their product slates.”
While some refineries could switch from gasoline production to diesel fuel production, we’d wind up just replacing one shortage with another (a gasoline shortage).
Unfortunately, it’s looking like diesel fuel won’t reach normal levels until at least next summer.
What a Diesel Fuel Shortage Means for You
Even if you don’t own a diesel truck – you will experience pains because of the diesel shortage.
As Tom Kloza, global head of energy analysis at Opis, explains, “Between now and the end of November, if we don't build inventories, the wolf will be at the door. And it will look like a big ugly wolf if it's a cold winter.”
Diesel is used in freight transportation, which means it will cost significantly more to ship food and consumer goods from one location to another.
The prices will be passed along to the consumer, meaning higher prices on top of already high inflation prices.
Bloomberg reporter Chunzi Xu explains, “The economy runs on diesel. So when diesel gets expensive, everything costs more. And when we run out of it, supply chains collapse, and things simply don't work. If the fuel scarcity gets worse and has the potential to drive inflation, in a worst-case scenario for consumers, daily life becomes increasingly expensive.”
Moreover, diesel fuel is used for heat in some parts of the country during the cold winter months.
[Related Read: Winter’s Must-Have Barter Item]
Add in the Natural Gas Shortage
We wish that were the worst of it, but there is also a natural gas shortage looming.
Natural gas inventories are currently below the seasonal average, and companies are struggling to meet high demands.
Eversource Energy CEO Joseph Nolan recently wrote a plea to President Biden due to the seriousness of this issue.
S&P Global reports, “The ISO New England grid operator and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ‘have acknowledged for many months that New England will not have sufficient natural gas to meet power supply needs for the region in the event of a severe cold spell this winter,’ Nolan wrote in an Oct. 27 letter to the president. ‘This represents a serious public health and safety threat.’”
This is largely due to the limitations on foreign-sourced natural gas imports due to the war in Ukraine and current U.S. policy.
How to Prepare for a Diesel Fuel and Natural Gas Shortage
As we’ve said many times, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”
Listen – we are aware this is happening. We aren’t in the position to prevent it, but we are in the position to protect our families and wallets.
- Cut Back on Spending and Save Money. Prices will rise. Since you know that costs are going to continue to rise, take steps now to cut back on your spending. Make every effort to save money.
- Stock Up on Food. One of the first places the costs will be passed on to consumers is at the grocery store. People will begin panic shopping. Avoid the crowds and keep a regularly stocked pantry with emergency food.
- Purchase Meat Now. Speaking of food, now is the time to buy meat and freeze it. Meat prices will climb. Look into buying a whole or half cow directly from a local butcher or farm to offset the high costs of shipping.
- Get Gifts Early. While you may see some price increases on products, you may also run into the issue of being unable to get the requested item on your child’s wish list as stores cut back on freight shipments.
- Find Additional Heat Sources. If your heating sources are dependent on fuel, find alternative heat sources. Invest in a generator or the VESTA Self-powered Indoor Space Heater and Stove by InstaFire. Stock up on firewood.
Don't let these shortages take you by surprise, friends.
Elizabeth AndersonPreparedness Advisor, My Patriot Supply