John Klar: The worst shortage you haven’t heard of

By John Klar

Should China occupy Taiwan, it would control a majority of the world’s microchip manufacturing production. But China needn’t invade Taiwan to bring America to its knees — simply reducing urea and other existing Chinese exports is already wreaking havoc.

John Klar

Agricultural fertilizer prices have nearly doubled in the past year, and shrinking supplies of Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) now threaten America’s transportation system. The impact of urea supply shortages on food inflation will be compounded by distribution failures if additional DEF resources are not procured immediately.

DEF is an emissions control liquid required by the EPA in diesel engines manufactured after 2010 as an “aftertreatment technology” to reduce vehicle emissions. This additive is required for most modern diesel truck fleets. Without it, many trucks cannot exceed five miles per hour in speed, or even be started.  Truckers are now reporting increasing DEF shortages around the nation.

EPA mandates for DEF in diesel engines were not matched by increases in DEF production, and China cut back DEF manufacturing last year, leading to the current threat:

Commercial motor vehicles that move commodities across the US utilize approximately 37.6 million tons of DEF and we are experiencing a global shortage. … China’s increased demand for urea in farming caused it to cut production of DEF fluid. … [For] about every 200 gallons of diesel used you will use about 1 gallon of DEF. The mandate for DEF began in 2010, so the average age of vehicles on the road utilizing the commodity is growing. The older vehicles are less efficient at burning fuel and therefore require more DEF. More and more vehicles that are lawfully required to use DEF continue to hit the market with no more manufacturing taking place in the DEF supply chain. … In conclusion, as demand and price continue to increase with no real solution to manufacture more DEF long-term, the disruption to an already reeling supply chain situation could be exacerbated by a DEF shortage. All diesel-powered trucks since 2010 require DEF to run. If the trucks DEF tank runs empty, the truck will shut down and not run, meaning millions of commercial transportation trucks could be sidelined at the height of the trucking industry need.

DEF is composed of water (67.5%) and urea (32.5%). The Biden administration has not announced plans to avert the DEF crisis, having failed to present proposals to counter inflation, baby formula inventories, gas prices, or America’s porous southern border. Rather than succumb to degrading dependency on China even for the ability to truck food from California to Connecticut, Americans must quickly craft domestic market solutions to this growing threat.

A modest proposal might employ human urine (once used as a tooth whitener) as a solution: it contains about 2% urea. With centralized urban processing and collection facilities, a mere 16 gallons of human pee would infuse 200 gallons of road diesel with DEF for delivering tomatoes and grapes to Manhattan and Newark. The average person discharges 800–2,000 milliliters of urine daily, or about a gallon every three days. All we need is 37.6 million tons of urea (projected to double by 2027).

This contrast reveals how a ubiquitous and vital substance like urea can create dangerous dependencies in modern industrial globalization and “too big not to fail” distribution systems. It is not clear whether manufacturing fixes can be implemented in diesel truck fleets to make them operable sans DEF. China may resume exports of urea, but the high prices of natural gas (the primary resource for its manufacture) ensure that it will remain costly.  Australia is similarly DEF-dependent and facing a crisis. Europe exports DEF but is struggling with natural gas shortages that are restricting production.

America faces a myriad of growing crises connected to fossil fuel prices, transportation systems, and food supplies. These are all interconnected. Delay in designing solutions is an impermissible luxury: there is no need to worry about Taiwanese microchips if there is no DEF to ensure that American trucks remain functional.

But still, the modus operandi of the Biden administration is a pursed-lip puzzlement.  As to DEF and urea shortages, this POTUS does not appear to have even a pot to pee in.

John Klar is an attorney and farmer residing in Brookfield. This commentary originally appeared at American Thinker.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Joshua Doubek
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8 thoughts on “John Klar: The worst shortage you haven’t heard of

  1. Thank you John for this funny, enlightening and yet sad article. The utter incompetence the current White House is simply historic.

  2. I can see this crisis alleviated, with the help of sports stadiums, teams, and beer suppliers.
    Patriotic beer lovers could produce a record amount of urea, toute suite. It’s a win-win!
    Canadians can do this too.

  3. And did ya’ see the latest? Biden & his Enviro nuts advising him & just INCREASED the mandate to put MORE wasteful corn ethanol into the gas blend. As if that will do anything to lower the price of oil? You are right, John…there are already 92 million acres of corn-for-ethanol in USA….that is a full 35% of ALL corn grown in USA. Corn, wheat and soybeans are in short supply and prices at all time highs….look at price of bread for children! Mandatig MORE corn-for- ethanol will take MORE corn that is stored & availablle, into gas tanks….not kids or starving Africans. Then, MORE acerage will be planted – not for starving, poor humans….but enviro idiocy ethanol. The ignorance of what the the Enviros tell Biden to do, is astounding. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction…and it is not good.

  4. China is a fierce economic and military competitor with a causal respect for patent rights and other protections taken for granted in the west……..China and its business model represents a tremendous threat to the west……Threats that go well beyond urea to control of so called rare earth elements needed of solar and battery development, the manufacture of critical goods ranging from medications to computer chips to coffee pots, a powerful and growing military and much, much more.

    Then there is its greatest asset: 1.4 billion people…….People willing work hard for a fraction of western worker demands in pay and benefits…….A giant Chinese work force powered by stolen western technology and lax workplace rules is the biggest threat facing the west. These threats compounded by Walmart retailing Chinese goods and an American people ready and willing to buy “made in China” label.

    China doesn’t have to have its military fire a single bullet to win the war, the economic war, with the United States and the rest of the west…….It just has to continue stealing technology and putting more of its people to work…….Really quite scary when you think about it.

    So how many think that Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Nancy Pelosi or AOC are up to dealing with the urea problem and China juggernaut?

    • I try to avoid buying ANYTHING made in China. Shoo can every patriotic American!

  5. First off every US corporation that brought their business to china should be taxed to
    death or bring your company back to the US.

    For all the greenies with their electric cars with batteries made in china, wait until they
    pull the plug on the export of batteries, solar panel parts made in china.

    The CCP is no friend to the US, and will destroy our way of life, think it’s BS, just look
    at today’s supply issues

    The US needs to freeze all CCP assets within the US, but our elected officials won’t,
    strange bed partners or just corrupt elected officials…….. follow the money !!

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