Supply chain disruptions: the ripple effect, and what we can do about it


We’ve spoken several times about the current supply chain disruptions being experienced across the world’s economies.  They’re now so widespread that they’re creating ripple effects, where shortages in one area are directly and immediately impacting seemingly unrelated areas.  A couple of examples:

  • Some time ago, China’s power generators cut back on ordering coal to fuel older-technology power stations, due to government edicts concerning air pollution.  However, this means less power has been generated;  so industries such as aluminum production, heavily reliant on electrical power, have been impacted.  More modern power stations are fueled by liquid natural gas;  but the world supply of this fuel is limited, and the suddenly increased demand from China, among other factors, has driven LNG prices up around the globe.  That’s meant that the Chinese government has had to guarantee fuel prices at a level the power stations can afford (effectively subsidizing the fuel market) – but this comes at a time when the government is also trying to stabilize China’s financial system, rocked by scandals and bankruptcies in the property market.  Does China have enough money to do everything that’s needed?  That remains to be seen.  Meanwhile, some of the older power stations have been ordered to increase power generation – but the coal they need is in short supply, thanks to China boycotting Australian coal, so coal prices are also skyrocketing.  Wheels within wheels . . .
  • Britain is also experiencing the consequences of soaring fuel prices.  Liquid natural gas is used as a feedstock to produce many other industrial raw materials, such as carbon dioxide.  LNG has become so expensive that a number of factories producing carbon dioxide and other materials simply shut down, because the increased cost of their raw materials and price controls on their production meant they could not charge an economically viable price for their output.  Now, the shortage of carbon dioxide threatens the production of all sorts of foodstuffs – meat, fizzy drinks, etc.  The British government is in urgent talks to solve the problem, which will likely involve some degree of subsidy of LNG prices.  Meanwhile, because British industry is buying carbon dioxide from across Europe in a bid to stay afloat, the shortage of that gas is now spreading across that continent, and affecting food production there too.

Those are just a couple of examples on the international level to illustrate how widespread and how severe supply chain problems are becoming.  That’s just as true here in the USA.  I’ve already described enough of our local problems that I won’t repeat it here.

I’ve accordingly decided to update our planning for emergencies to incorporate supply chain problems, and how they may affect our family.  We’re “small fry”, without much extra cash, or storage space, or opportunity to “plan big”;  but there are very practical measures we can take to minimize the impact we’re already feeling from supply chain shortages.

Amongst other measures, I’m doing the following:

  • Increasing the quantity and variety of essential motor vehicle parts and spares we keep on hand.  I’ve always had enough lubricant and filters for an oil change on each of them.  Now, I’m doubling that, and adding essential spares that are likely to be needed (e.g. air filters, etc.)  I’m also getting a spare serpentine belt for each vehicle, because they’re a critical component – no belt, engine no run, period!  To my surprise, serpentine belts are already in short supply for many vehicles, both locally manufactured and imported, because the belts are overwhelmingly made overseas and have been hit by the same supply chain problems as everything else.
  • We’ve always aimed to have up to three months’ essential food supplies, enough to eat reasonably well in an emergency, plus another three months’ longer-term supplies such as rice, beans, etc. – not necessarily very appetizing, but enough to keep body and soul together until things improve.  I’m now extending our essential food supplies, and storing at least 30 days’ food off-site in a conveniently accessible location.  That’s for two reasons.  First, if shortages become crippling, I fully expect there to be propaganda pressure on “preppers”, describing them as “hoarders”.  In more statist or authoritarian jurisdictions, this may even extend to door-to-door visits from the authorities, demanding to inspect one’s supplies, complete with pressure to “donate” one’s “excess” to the community – if not outright confiscation.  (Think I’m joking?  I’m not.  I’ve seen it happen elsewhere.)  Second, we don’t have enough storage space in our smallish house for large-scale supplies, but we can mitigate that by using a small climate-controlled storage unit.  They’re not cheap to rent, but we can share the cost with trusted friends and all benefit from having a remote storage location.
  • I’m noting the effect of supply chain shortages on power generation overseas, and wondering how that might play out in the USA if things get worse.  Therefore, I’m increasing our stock of foods that are simple and easy to prepare, and if necessary can be eaten cold out of a can, without any preparation at all.  I don’t really think we’ll go without power for months on end, but a few days – or even weeks – here and there?  We had that earlier this year, thanks to Mother Nature.  If that may become a more frequent pattern, for whatever reason, I’d like us to be able to eat as well as possible.  I’ve also provided two portable gas stoves and a couple of rocket stoves, so that easily-gathered twigs and wood offcuts can fuel our cooking if needed.  (Hint:  don’t use your high-quality pots and pans on camping stoves.  Rather buy a few cheap spares from your local thrift store, and reserve them for emergency use.  That way, if they get blackened or scorched, you won’t mind very much.)
  • I’ve always stored enough gasoline in jerrycans (not inside our house!) to fill our vehicles’ tanks in an emergency, plus a bit more to fuel our lawnmower.  I now want enough gas on hand, properly stored using a stabilizer, to fill each of our vehicles’ tanks twice.  If worse comes to worst, we can fill up, then head out with enough gas to fill up again en route to wherever we’re going;  and if we stay put, but local gasoline supplies are scarce, we’ll have a bit of leeway in our transport needs.  (For those who think this is an unnecessary precaution, consider what happens when a hurricane shuts down refineries.  The fuel pipelines from them to other states shut down too, as we saw earlier this year.  Hackers can do the same thing by taking out the computers controlling the pipelines, as we also saw earlier in 2021.  If you’re on the other end of those pipelines during extended outages, you may not enjoy the experience.)
  • Finally, I’m thinking of alternate ways to heat our home.  Winter’s on its way, and if we lose power, we lose heat.  I’d like to have alternatives.  We have a fireplace, but it’s small, and would only heat our living-room by a few degrees, thanks to the design of our home.  I’ll take a long, hard look at alternative fuels, bearing in mind the risks of fire, suffocation, etc.  (Yes, additional carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide alarms are included in my planning!)  I’ll also consider getting additional warm clothing, blankets, etc.
Those are just a few of the ways in which the supply chain shortage is altering our preparations for emergencies.  What are you doing to prepare for it?  Please share your ideas with us in Comments, so we can all benefit from other people’s experience and circumstances.



  1. Peter if your fireplace is a wood burning one AND the chimney is in good shape-clean you CAN retrofit a Iron Box Stove to fit it and run it's pipe Up your chimney. Tin snips and a sheet of Non-Galvanized sheet steel in the 16 gauge range can help keep the draft going the right way as a 6 inch stove pipe inside a bigger brick chimney can create back drafts. Be careful of the often razor sharp edges from the tin snips cuts.

    You will need to look at how to protect your flooring from the heat with a fire rug and I suggest a layer of bricks under and dry stacked around the stove. That way you can create a smaller version of a Rocket Stove Mass Heater by heating up all those brinks for longer lasting heat between firings. Leave the top clear for cooking.

    You also need some fans to distribute that heat to AT Least areas where freezing will cause water system damage.

    Running an Iron Box Stove as a rocket heater allows you to burn normally Crappy Wet Pine Branches and such in a Hot fire as not to have severe creosote buildup AND make USE of all that sudden Heat over some time. Trying to smolder burn crappy pine WILL be a troublemaker with creosote.

    A layer of sand or fire brick on the bottom of your stoves burn area will help with longevity of the stove under heavy use.

    Cooking is Improved by use of Strawbox cookers to allow a boil up of a pot of dinner them CAREFULLY placing inside that Strawbox for a Slow Cooker effect. Same with thermos style use.

  2. Depending on availability I'd go for either paraffin heaters or camping gas ones.

    In Japan we standardized on camp gas cylinders because we have a table top ninja stove that we use regularly anyway so if we buy a load of gas cylinders we know we'll use them up eventually anyway. In fact it's getting to that time of year when we start using it again…

    But I may beg a paraffin stove from the in-laws. They have paraffin heaters from their old house that can be put back into use with a clean up. OTOH in Japan I'm not worried about power loss particularly. In the long term Japan can restart some nukes, in the shorter term there's a honking great coal fired plant down the coast that, last time I saw it, had a mountain of coal next to it so I'd be surprised if there are major outages.

  3. You may want to see if a wood heater can use your fireplace chimney, increasing the efficiency. Thrift stores can be a cheap source of coats and blankets.

  4. Referencing the rocket stove blackening issue- If you can place a piece of plate steel thick enough to not warp between the bottom of the skillet and the actual fire, you can fix that problem. The steel gets blackened on the underside and the top side just gets hot. I've brought a 16 qt pressure canner up to pressure using this method. The apparatus was a piece of 1/4" plate steel with four legs made out of iron pipe long enough to hold the plate steel about six inches above the rocket stove chimney. Basically a steel table over the stove.

  5. Maniac I hope you've cooked up some of your Emergency Food and ate it. Would be a bummer to find out in a REAL Emergency(tm) that your on a starvation diet of 3600 "Servings" for 30 days and it's NASTY stuff.

    I've bought sample of many of the Survival Food companies and in general aside from Mt. House found them either nasty tasting starchy gummy and or vastly overpriced for the few calories in a "Serving".

    LOL some of those "servings" are two teaspoons worth, I measured it out.

    Store what you eat, eat what you store. Rotation keeps it fresher.

  6. These work well for increasing the heat output of your fireplace…

    THe example is expensive but a bit of searching should find you a less expensive alternative, or you can have a local weld shop make you one.
    I've use one of these and the amount of hot air they put out is impressive…even without a blower.

  7. I have the storage space issue mostly and a lack of local friends with whom to share a rental.

    Mountain House meals are good, as are many of the similarly packaged camping meals. I've thought about making my own but just haven't got around to it. I have enough MH meals to last me a month although in a high energy use situation maybe less. So at least if I'm just stuck at home…

    I have old Coleman stoves and lots of white gas, but they are iffy. I bought one a couple years ago that had barely been used, took it camping this past summer and after two days of cooking it stopped feeding properly. Probably just needs the jet to be cleaned but frustrating in the middle of needing it. I have avoided propane because I figure it is harder to get in an emergency. I do have four big tanks for the various BBQ and smokers so should probably grab one next time I see it at a garage sale.

    Kerosene heater but … you then have to worry about ventilation. There's a heater called a Buddy Heater that is supposed to be emission free from a company called Mr. Heater but good luck getting one right now. Probably better if you can find one. A friend had one, decided to get rid of it, offered it to me but at the time I didn't really have a use for it. Now regretting that decision as I think he gave it to someone else. Also had a friend with a generator that he decided to replace as it wasn't big enough. I also turned that down. Poor decision making skills. There's always Harbor Freight in the US though.

    Lots of tinned food and emergency meals that I could heat up over either a Coleman stove or Jetboil so long as the fuel canisters last. Plus sacks of beans, rice, whole grains (would have to run the grain mill off the generator I have but that's OK), cooking oils, etc stashed away.

    Oh, just a reminder that if power is out and food supplies are unavailable, your neighbors will hear you running your generator. Keep that in mind when making decisions as to how much and how long to run it.

    Don't let your vehicles get below a half tank, that way your spare gas lasts longer if you need it. Both mine got down under a quarter tank last week and I was too tired to stop for gas. Gah! Filled the car yesterday, need to get the truck in this weekend. I also picked up one of the big five gallon military style jerry cans for free from a customer and filled it with diesel for the truck. So that gets me another 100 miles from home if needed. Wouldn't mind a second so have my eyes open.

    There. Lots of random thoughts. 😁

  8. I live in New Hampshire and heat 99% exclusively with wood. My suggestion would be to install a woodstove in your fireplace. Stay away from fireplace inserts because they rely on blowers to get the heat out and thus aren't much more efficient than a fireplace when there's an issue with the power. I'm only familiar enough with Texas weather to know it gets colder than most Yankees think it does and the houses tend to be less insulated. Some woodstoves won't fit in fireplaces depending on height and the placement of the flue. If it's a top flue stove it may not clear but most rear exit flues should fit. You can place a thermoelectric fan on top that will circulate air to a surprising degree. No idea about wood availability in your area but don't be afraid of burning soft woods like pine in a good woodstove with a good chimney. I've lined old chimneys with 4' sections of 6" chimney liner and filled around it with vermiculite and it worked great, just leave an opening at the bottom you can open up to dump creosote out into the old fireplace. Get one with a ceramic glass window and you can sit in front of it with your back facing the glass and soak up the IR… that's what I'm doing right now since I'm off work with a messed up shoulder. If you've got any saw mills nearby you can sometimes get a good deal on bundles of slab wood, that stuff burns great. Oh, get something with some nice flat area on top and so can cook on them. Brunswick stew!

    My favorite stove is the Pacific Energy. I have the Summit, it's hands down the best stove I've ever used. Don't get a catalytic stove unless you can count on a reliable supply of seasoned hard wood they only burn well with perfect conditions.

  9. Important note, "emission free" heaters, even if that's true, still consume oxygen.
    A friend had a wood burning stove professionally installed. Spendy, but very effective. I've tended it myself.
    Maybe a dual fuel nat gas/propane genset would be a good idea. Don't know if there is such a thing.

    From Birkbeck University of London: text because link doesn't:
    Gradual asphyxia. Degrees of asphyxia will occur when the atmosphere contains less than 20.9% oxygen by volume.

    Oxygen Content (vol. %)

    Effects and symptoms (at atmospheric pressure)
    20 – 14
    Diminution of physical and intellectual performance without person's knowledge.

    14 – 10
    Judgement becomes faulty. Severe injuries may cause no pain. Ill temper easily aroused. Rapid fatigue on exertion.

    10 – 6
    Nausea and vomiting may appear. Loss of ability to move vigorously or at all. Inability to walk, stand or crawl is often first warning and it comes too late. Person may realise they are dying but does not care. Resuscitation possible if carried out immediately.

    0 – 6
    Fainting almost immediate, painless death ensues, brain damage even if rescued.

  10. Dual fuel, butane/propane, camping stoves are great. You can adapt the included propane hose to fit a 20 lb tank. Single burner so it’s infinitely portable. Wood stove for heat. Anything else requires some form of power to operate. 12 volt fans will move a goodly quantity of air and can be run off compact batteries. I live in Interior Alaska and it’s not uncommon to go a week at a time without power if we get a fair sized storm in winter. I’ve kept my house more than comfortable at -30 F using just the wood heat and a few 12 volt fans to keep things moving. I’ll go through 4-5 cords of wood in a typical winter along with a couple hundred gallons of fuel oil. The wood stove isn’t my sole heat source but it’s my primary one.

    My biggest issue is keeping perishables cool in summer when we lose power. I don’t keep much in the way of perishable fridge stuff, but the freezer’s full of salmon, moose & caribou. 9 months a year it’s a no brainer…fridge stuff goes on the garage floor & frozen goes on the back deck in a cooler. The chest freezer goes out there too. Firman makes a handy 3.5kw genny for a couple hundred bucks. I’ve got one. It’s a bit noisy and heavy, but it gets the job dine. Push come to shove, a used lawnmower engine driving a 90 amp alternator coupled to an inverter would get you by for essential 120 vac power.

  11. Some thoughts.

    Based on my experiences during various and sundry events in Houston.

    After the freeze I wrote=

    "The Mr Heater Buddy series ROCKS. Absolutely the easiest way to get heat in a disaster, or when you are away from home. HIGHLY recommended. And buy a case of bottles per heater… if you need them you REALLY need them. A full bottle lasted about 4 hours on the low setting. " they are rated for indoor use and put out a lot of heat.

    Also wrote this about redundancy and versatility=

    " this disaster is so far out that it was WAY down the threat matrix. Still, I’ve got the oil filled heaters, a couple of ceramic space heaters, several of the Mr buddy indoor rated heaters with filters and converter hoses for BBQ tanks if needed, a dozen of the Mr heater style tank top heaters, 3 of the mushroom style patio outdoor heaters, a couple of liquid fuel Coleman old school catalytic heaters, one of those wick style kerosene heaters, and one of the job site dragon kerosene heaters. Gas log in the fireplace too.

    If we get down to the backpacking stoves or hand warmers, we’re in trouble….

    So even though cold doesn’t usually accompany our most common threats, I did cover a few ways to stay warm…

    I’ve got similar gear for cooking too. I like eating.

    Whatever energy source is available, I have a way to use it."

    One new thing I tried during the freeze was a stove based on sterno as a fuel, and I wrote this= " This is the “stove” I mentioned earlier

    The Sterno Inferno. Even without a lid on the pot, it boiled a full pot of water in 14 minutes using sterno. Sterno is pretty safe and easy to store, as well as being cheap. The pot is big enough for rehydrating freeze dried foods, soup, or a couple cups of coffee.

    Did I mention that I like to eat? And that I have a bunch of ways to heat food?


    (used it for the first time today to make some hot tea, so not a definitive review or recco but it did the job, is lightweight, and uses a fuel that is easy to store.)"


  12. And this is probably enough about food cooking options for a while…..

    " You will need to provide your own infrastructure too, just in case.

    I like to eat hot food, so I have lots of ways to cook beyond my electric range and oven.

    I have multiples of coleman stoves, in a variety of fuels, along with the fuels.
    I have butane table top burners and fuel
    I have a variety of backpacking type stoves and fuels (from gasoline to butane canisters to alcohol)
    I’ve got the solid fuel bars
    I’ve got a propane grill and lots of propane
    I’ve got a wood fire pit with a cooking grate
    I’ve got the concrete blocks to make a rocket stove
    I can dig a dakota fire hole and cook over that
    I’ve got wood for a campfire…

    you’ll need water, so a couple of hiking/camping filters to supplement stored drinking water, filtered rainwater, etc. I’ve got a kiddie pool to use as rainwater catchment if things REALLY get bad. I’m assuming you already stockpile water. You will need WAY more than one gallon/person/day.

    you’ll need light
    -coleman lanterns in various fuels
    -oil lanterns with oil and wicks stored
    -LED lanterns with batteries stored
    -LED/solar landscape lighting for use after the fall indoors
    -FLASHLIGHTS and batteries
    -a few candles but I consider them poor light sources and WAY too dangerous

    you’ll want power
    -whole house natgas gennie
    -backed up by small gasoline gennie
    -backed by old UPS battery banks
    -backed by inverter in the vehicles
    -backed by solar chargers (5 and 12 v)
    -solar panels (in a stack, need a charge controller and batteries, but can wire them up if needed)

    you need to deal with hygiene
    -I've got a propane "on demand hot water heater" for cabins
    -I’ve got propane “turkey fryer” burners, big pots for heating water, and a wash tub
    -I’m looking for mop buckets with wringers cheap to do laundry
    -got a couple of boxes (ie over a thousand) of wastepaper basket liners for collecting poop
    -got the seat for a five gallon bucket as a toilet
    -got spare wash basins and soap for dishes
    -got solar shower bags
    -got several hundred feet of garden hose, which when left in the sun will easily heat several gallons of water to “really freaking hot”.

    Of course every one of these things is ‘fractal’ in that the harder you look the more involved it can be.

    Still, you can do some simple things that would make a big difference. The solar/led security lights are an awesome hack for getting area light indoors as well as out. Small folding solar panels to charge USB devices are widely available and not too dear. Lithium battery “jump start” packs are a great value for size and weight power storage.

    I bet everyone here has burned themselves on hot hose water but did you consider using it to heat water on purpose? You probably have many other things already that can be easily used grid down to provide some creature comforts. And starting with hot water saves fuel for boiling it…"


  13. If your chimney is in good shape I ditto the advice to look at a small wood burning stove (NOT an insert). We have a small one in our place, and it does a nice job of heating the place on its own. Better with electricity to help run fans to help move the warm air, but even without them it does an awesome job. Bonus, while not technically a cook stove the flat top gets more than hot enough to heat up a kettle or cast iron pan to cook on.

    Additional option for heat, if you can get kerosene at the pump (here some gas stations sell it) look at a radiant kero heater thats designed for indoor use (Home Depot, Walmart and several other places are putting them out for sale just about now up here in the northern climates). I don't know how cooking would work on one, but I bet it would warm a kettle set on it well enough to heat water decent warm. I used to use one for supplement heat when I lived in the city.

    Whatever you pick, double check your Carbon monoxide detectors, and whole house ventilation!

  14. We got through the Snowmagedden this February in South Texas thanks to having a propane grill with a griddle and burner accessory, and a little Mr. Heater Buddy that I bought on the spur of the moment several years at Tractor Supply (It was on sale, at the end of winter). We were so glad to have it, what with almost a week with intermittent to no power and no water. We were able to collect snow and melt from the gutters to flush the johns with and to wash. A fair number of our neighbors got by, thanks to having camping gear like that.

    It's on my wishlist, to buy another Mr. Heater Buddy… And a generator, eventually. The Daughter Unit and I have stashed away canned goods, dried beans, pasta and bottled water.

  15. Remember that dried beans, rice and a lot of other long term food storage require copious amounts of water to prepare.
    While water supplies will most likely be available early on in a crisis, that isn't guaranteed long term.
    Depending on where you are, water storage or filtration is an important consideration.
    In the dry west, water storage will be key. Back east, or down south, filtration will be of greater worth.
    I'm in the west, and have gathered a modicum of water storage (though I could always use more). But I also have water filters. If water must be gathered, I can filter it. But more than that, I don't know how long the water in the taps will remain potable.
    Water filtration plants may keep the water flowing, but be unable to treat the water as well as they would like. With slow downs in important chemicals or equipment, we may find the water in our pipes to be less than palatable/safe.
    Beyond that, we can find ways to cook using less water. Pressure cookers, rice cookers and instant pots use less water to cook, allowing you to stretch out your supply.
    I realize they that the stove top pressure cooker is the only one you can use in a grid down situation, but remember that while electricity can be cludged together for lack of parts, potable water is another story.
    You could conceivably have power, but not decent drinking water.
    See chunks of Africa and the Middle East.

  16. About keeping your freezer cold.
    Last month (28 Sept 2021) on someone's site (Bustednuckles?) There was a comment about how a reader built a portable Solar electric system, it was a fine idea!
    He used a dolly and had the batteries & inverter (to turn 12vdc into 120vac for the freezer & refridge) stacked on it so he could roll it out when needed. A couple of solar panels (his were hinged so they store better), some sunlight and you're in business. If you can find the write up & link to the pdf about it it will be worth the time you spent looking.

    Those Mr Heaters and Buddy heaters put out some heat & they will turn off if there is not enough oxygen … but they do produce CO and CO will kill you quietly. But all they need is a window opened a crack and you're good.

    Thinking about not being able to find food in the store I put 30 days of cheap food away for the 2 of us. This fit in an 18 gal plastic tub I had.

    30# of white rice in six 5# bags
    12 cans of chili
    12 cans of beef stew
    4 cans of chicken meat
    2 cans of tuna fish (larger cans, like the canned chicken meat)
    30 cans of vegetables
    Bullion cubes, Salt, Sugar, Pepper, Garlic powder and assorted other spices.
    The major meal of the day is going to be rice with a can of something and a can of vegies mixed in.

  17. I suggest a good quality free standing non-catalytic wood stove placed in front of your fireplace (on a heat resistant pad), with a design such that the smoke pipe can run back into the fireplace and then up the chimney flue (I think Jotul has such models). You will need a flue liner installed. The stove should have a flat top so you can use it for cooking. A free-standing stove will not need an electric fan as gravity convection of hot air will be adequate. You should not need a dedicated outside air supply esp. if you have an older house; there should be enough air infiltration via existing outside air vents etc. If the stove tends to emit smoke into the room when lighting it then you may need to crack a door or window open to get enough draft going.

  18. Look into "hot air solar collectors". As long as the sun is shining, you can have heat. If you want to get fancy, use a small solar panel to power fans to move the hot air around.

    At night, consider using something like a Mr. Buddy to heat just one room.

  19. Mr. Buddy heaters are available online, and even at Wal-mart. I live in South Texas and have an all electric house. I was prepared for everything except the complete loss of power for 4 days. Bought 2 of the Mr. Buddy heaters,(later, after the freeze) and am still accumulating the 1 lb gas bottles for them…also bought a carbon monoxide alarm. During the freeze, my house got to 44 degrees, but no frozen pipes. During the day I made sure to open the shades on all the windows to get what solar heat I could. NOTE! These heaters and the bottles were unobtainable of very expensive when the need was greatest. Don't wait to buy them. Another note: I did not see a single police/municipal vehicle during this time. There was no cavalry; YOU are the cavalry.

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