UK politicians are in utter panic as similarities to the 1970s-style "winter of discontent" of shortages and socio-economic distress could rear its ugly head in the coming months, according to Reuters.
A significant driver in what could very well be a hellacious winter for Brits is soaring natural gas and electricity prices that have already disrupted segments of the UK economy and sent shockwaves through energy markets, chemical producers, and the food industry, among others. Compound this all with labor shortages thanks to Brexit, and the dire situation may worsen.
Some Brits who remember the past worry a winter of discontent could be imminent. Many are facing extraordinary high power bills and sharp food inflation that are eating away at wages, along with shortages of goods at supermarkets.
The primary driver of this chaos is soaring natural gas prices due to declines in Russian flows to Europe, along with a drop in renewable power output. The soaring cost of natgas has pressured chemical firms that use the gas in production to limit or halt operations. One such industry is fertilizer that is a byproduct of natgas. From there, the decline of fertilizer has affected CO2 production, which heavily impacts food supply chains.
People are paying attention to the developments of the energy crisis and its immediate ripple effect across the economy and are taking no chances of being left without food. Many are panic buying food as government officials try to calm everyone down, reassuring everyone the winter of discontent is not upon them.
"There is no need for people to go out and panic buy," Small Business Minister Paul Scully told Times Radio.
With low CO2 levels, Britain's food industry has been disrupted but received emergency support from the government this week to reopen at least one chemical plant to make the gas critical for slaughterhouses to food packaging to the beverage industry.
Already, shelves in some supermarkets are cleared out as people are taking no chance.
"Look, this isn't a 1970s thing at all," Scully said when asked if Britain was heading back into a winter of discontent - a reference to the 1978-79 winter when inflation and industrial action left the economy in chaos.
Compounding the issues for the food industry has been the shortage of truck drivers that have led to additional supply chain disruptions.
A Tesco spokesperson said the supermarket chain is experiencing a shortage of truck drivers, leading to "some distribution challenges."
Another supermarket chain, Sainsbury's, has said, "availability in some product categories may vary but alternatives are available."
As for the energy crisis, the government has capped power prices for households which means energy retailers are becoming unprofitable and smaller ones are failing left and right. So far, seven energy retailers have gone bankrupt, affecting more than 1.5 million households.
If hyperinflation of natural gas and power prices and soaring food prices and shortages of goods aren't similar to the winter of discontent that took place decades ago, then we don't know what is...
What this may cause is turmoil on the streets if the crisis worsens.