Episode 282. The Future ~ Part 2

This is The ChangeUnderground for the 13th of December 2021.

I’m your host, Jon Moore

Decarbonise the Air, Recarbonise the Soil!

As we discussed last episode, a confluence of events pointed to supply chain issues and possible food supply shortages. Things like rising energy costs, fertiliser costs, personnel shortages in key parts of the supply chain and so on. 

Imagine my surprise when I discovered the truly remarkable substance AdBlue. I’d seen this being promoted some time in the past decade as a diesel additive, or so I thought. It turns out this is a diesel exhaust additive. Squirted into the exhaust of diesel engines it removes nitrogen oxide and replaces it with nitrogen and water. AdBlue is a compound of deionised water and…. Wait for it…. Urea! 

Urea is a 46% nitrogen chemical compound used primarily in agriculture as a fertiliser and sometimes, as animal feed, or at least as part of animal feed would be more accurate. According to the Progressive Farmer website in a piece entitled DTN Retail Fertilizer Trends dated 20 Oct 2021


Leading the pack this week is urea, which saw its price increase 26%. For reference, DTN considers any price change of 5% or more to be significant. With an average price of $719/ton, urea is $147 per ton more expensive than it was in mid-September. 

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I should also note a graph on the site shows urea began the year at under US$300 a ton.

As noted in episode 278, major fertiliser producers are closing down and or cutting back production of nitrogenous fertilisers as the input costs, mostly natural gas, have skyrocketed. The story so far, price rises are pushing the cost of production and the price of nitrogenous fertilisers higher. From the early 2000s AdBlue has been added to diesel engines to reduce pollution. Oh and the world’s largest producer of urea, is… The People’s Republic of China. They’re hanging onto their supplies, hungry populations tend to be restive and not conducive to continued dominance by a command economy dominated one party system. Urea then is in short supply and a shortening further situation.

Here’s the added wrinkle. Most modern diesels won’t now run without AdBlue. It’s another critical choke point in the supply chain. 

And you’ll never guess what?

It’s in critically short supply because of the urea shortage. This is a self-inflicted wound by the Chinese in some sense as the CCP has decided to make an example of Australia for raising human rights issues and so on. They have, therefore, moved from Australian black coking coal in urea production to brown coal. Yes I’m aware of the whole coal thing but come with me. The lower quality brown stuff is rising in price and not particularly well suited to urea production. Add that to the Russian supply constraints on natural gas pushing prices higher as well and the conclusion we came to last week is a fertilizer shortage in the near future.

AdBlue is in critical, sphincter tightening shortage, pretty much, now.

According to the ABC


While it appears the trucking fleets in Australia and other countries will be able to keep running for the all-important Christmas period, there are fears matters will come to a head early next year.

Some major trucking companies are reportedly set to run out of supplies within weeks, while others have suggested stocks are unlikely to last beyond January.

It’s a similar story around the world.

Last month, South Korea resorted to the drastic step of importing 27,000 litres of urea solution from Australia after China cracked down on exports.

In Europe, where a high proportion of private cars are diesel, AdBlue is all but unavailable.

The tight market has sent prices of the additive soaring, with costs at the pump rising by as much as 10 per cent over two days last week.

“I had a member call the other day — they’ve got 250 prime movers, so they’re a big organisation,” Mr Clark said.

“A lot of their fuel they buy in bulk — they are basically out of AdBlue next week.

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Ok, things are crook.

We may have four weeks, maybe six under current conditions to get some home food production happening. 

There is a doomsday version of this where tractors stop moving, harvests aren’t happening, anything that can be harvested can’t be transported to people. I’m hoping this will be avoided. Remember the “Four meals from Anarchy” link from last week? If money can fix the issue, then I’m assuming governments will subsidize the stuff but that assumes the stuff, the AdBlue is available, somewhere. Alternatively, emission standards  could be suspended and a workaround the “won’t run without” problem might be fixed in the short term. The environmental effects are not positive. Burning cities aren’t particularly green either. 

“Get planting” has been my mantra for so long and it still holds.

I understand the northern hemisphere is not in a growing season at present but microgreens, indoor plants, I’m really not sure but plant something, somewhere.

In the Southern Hemisphere we are approaching peak growing season. Seeds might be an issue but I think that particular “beginning of the pandemic” panic has passed. 

Remember, the Cubans came through their hungry years with a better system and, I suspect, healthier people. We can too, we can even avoid the hungry years if we shorten our supply lines, speak to our neighbours, join community gardens, start an allotment, plant a window box, anything really just start.

And you know the drill. If you need help there’s the free ebook at the World Organic News website and the No Dig gardening course is there too. Links in the show notes.

Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!

Thank you all for listening and I’ll be back next week.




The ChangeUnderground Academy No-Dig Gardening Course:


FREE eBook: https://worldorganicnews.com/freeebook/

email: jon@worldorganicnews.com

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Bubugo Conservation Trust


What is AdBlue and why could an international shortage bring Australia’s economy to its knees?


Episode 281. The Future




DTN Retail Fertilizer Trends


Episode 278. COP26, what’s changed?


Riots: Remember the Four Meal Rule


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