Editorial | Fear of shortages and blackouts

Few things spread as fast through the population as a alarm. And if it has apocalyptic overtones, even more. These days converge two great fears, of a different nature, but overlapping: that of a widespread shortage and that of a big blackout. In both cases, the prospect of running out of basic products and services generates a logical social concern. If we follow what our leaders and the sectors involved assure us, we have to rule out the worst case scenario: there is a safety net so that we do not lack the essentials. Therefore, peace of mind. However, in this barrage of warnings of various shortages, some of them have a certain basis. And they add to news that is already happening, such as the lack of chips and raw materials or the energy crisis. Truthful and verified information is the best weapon to know how to discern what is really happening and what you have to be prepared for.

In the case of supply shortages, it is true that factories around the world suffer supplier delays affecting production. There is a bottleneck in freight containers that slows down world trade. And demand far exceeds supply, because consumption has reactivated faster than production capacity after the stoppage due to the pandemic. That makes prices more expensive, which will end up being passed on to the final consumer, who is already experiencing the effects of the rise in energy rates. Countries and economic organizations monitor the inflation (which in Spain was 5.5% in October) to adopt, if necessary, new monetary policy decisions. At the gates of Christmas, companies are intensifying their purchases to have enough stock, it is possible that the most popular star products will be sold out, but there will be no empty shelves, they say. The shortage of supplies will affect the consumer’s pocket more than a true shortage.

The hypothetical great blackout is also almost impossible. Or at least, in the extreme terms in which it is presented by those most prone to catastrophism. Austria raised the alarm when he urged his population to prepare for an indefinite electrical collapse. Something that could happen in years. In Spain, both the Minister for the Ecological Transition, Teresa Ribera, and Red Eléctrica Española (REE) have ensured that the electricity supply is guaranteed. And many industry analysts agree that the system is ready to respond to any unforeseen failure. But the alert about a blackout hits a consumer sensitive to the news about energy, at a time when the electricity and gas prices are rising and they will affect your pocketbook again. Normalization is not expected until next spring.

After a pandemic in which situations that seemed taken from science fiction have been experienced, it is more difficult for people to rule out a new episode of great affectation as unlikely. Also in early 2020 there was talk of infodemia (informational overexposure) to reduce the severity of coronavirus threats. It is reasonable that citizens try to protect themselves against future dangers, without fear dominating reason, for which it is essential fight rumors and fake news maintaining good informational criteria and good media.


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