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- This month: British Expat update
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Carbon dioxide is very much in the news in Britain at the moment.
I can almost hear the collective yawns all over the world, as carbon emissions have been even more of a perennial news topic than Brexit has. But this time it’s different. Whereas all the usual headlines are about there being too much CO₂ around, with much of the blame levelled at developed regions such as Western Europe, at the moment it seems there’s not enough – and, perhaps inevitably, it’s Western Europe that’s suffering from the shortage.
So what’s the problem? Well, carbon dioxide is produced commercially as a by-product of the Haber process used to generate ammonia, an important component of many fertilisers. It seems that most of the major fertiliser producers in Western Europe have decided to shut down their production plants for maintenance more or less at the same time. There’s relatively little call for fertiliser in the summer, so that’s the obvious time for maintenance.
Unfortunately, the closedown this year has coincided with two events causing CO₂ demand to spike. One of them, the World Cup currently underway in Russia, was entirely predictable: the detailed schedule’s been available for months. Perhaps slightly less predictable was the prolonged spell of warm weather that Western Europe’s been enjoying. Suffice it to say that people have been on the lookout for more fizzy drinks (soft and alcoholic) than usual.
It’s about more than just fizzy drinks, though. CO₂ has uses in the brewing of proper grown-up beers too, as it’s needed to move ales between tanks and to purge tanks after use. It’s also a vital component in some food packaging operations as it’s used for packaging crumpets. (Or pikelets, as they’re still known in the West Midlands. The name “pikelet” is an Anglicised version of the name given to them in Wales where they originated, bara pyglyd or “pitchy bread”.) Warburton’s, the UK’s biggest maker, has had to shut down its London and Burnley operations and is having difficulty supplying Stockton-on-Tees. Only its Midlands factory in Wednesbury is producing at capacity.
More worryingly, the lack of carbon dioxide is causing a backlog at abattoirs, where an atmosphere high in CO₂ is used to render some animals unconscious before slaughter, particularly pigs and chickens – and, again, for packaging. Scotland’s biggest abattoir at Brechin has had to close temporarily. As there are welfare implications for these animals, it seems likely that the abattoirs will be prioritised when CO₂ production gets underway again.
So far, there’s been little sign of the shortage having a major impact on consumers. Some meat product manufacturers have contemplated reducing shelf life, and pub chain JD Wetherspoons reported its pubs running out of mass-produced drinks such as Strongbow cider, John Smith’s bitter and bottled lagers Birra Moretti and Amstel. But that’s about it. And two tankers full of liquid carbon dioxide have delivered fresh supplies from Europe in the last few days, so our bacon may have – literally – been saved.
As usual, we’ve added a new Quick Quiz and Pic of the Week to the site. This month the focus is on Pakistan. Nearly one in fifty Britons can trace their origins to Pakistan, with large communities in Birmingham, Bradford and Glasgow. And it’s home to the world’s second largest Muslim population, after Indonesia. How much do you know about it? Find out in our quiz!
And the Pic of the Week is also from Pakistan – one of the iconic multi-coloured buses that dominate public transport there and elsewhere in the South Asian sub-continent.
Are you ever flummoxed by fancy foodie words, mystified by menus, or confused by culinary terms? Then head on over to Scoffopedia.com and become enlightened by our quirky A-Z of food. And it’s got cartoons in it! Don’t forget to tell all your friends about it too.
Meanwhile, of course, the forum continues to provide information on a wide range of expat issues, as well as the opportunity to socialise with like-minded people all around the world. You can see the full range of discussion boards here.
Write for British Expat
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Besides articles, we also publish quick trivia quizzes—five questions about any subject. So, if you’d like to write for us but don’t feel like producing a literary masterpiece, then why not try writing a quickie quiz about your city, country, or even your hobby? Please use our contact form to get in touch.
British Expat Amazon Shopping
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BE Amazon Shop: UK & EU | BE Amazon Shop: non-EU
So there’s a round-up of all that’s been going on. Come on over and see for yourself! Don’t forget…
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