America's Dependency on Imports May Be Stagnating its Economy


Shortages of the following may be leading to the new norm of shortages and inflation:

  • Neon - the gas crucial to manufacturing electronic chips.
  • Urea – the ingredient to make the EPA required Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) additive for all diesel vehicles.
  • Refineries – projections of 20 percent closures over the next 5 years of these aging infrastructures will result in less manufacturing to meet growing demands.
  • Oil – The U.S. is following California to be totally dependent on foreign countries to meet the demands within its borders.


Neon is an important component in the lasers that etch semiconductors. Like krypton and xenon, it is a by-product of steel manufacturing. Steel producers separate air to control levels of oxygen and nitrogen delivered to the blast furnace. This involves the fractional distillation of liquid air.

Neon is important to the manufacture of semiconductor chips but is not present in the chips. It doesn’t directly touch the silicon during manufacturing. Neon helps make the deep ultraviolet (DUV) light used in the photolithographic process that patterns semiconductors. Neon plays a vital role in excimer lasers.

Ukraine produces around 70 percent of global neon gas exports, and a purified version of that gas is so crucial to the semiconductor industry that the Russia-Ukraine war threatens to disrupt supplies and make the ongoing microchip shortage even worse.

With a lack of excitement in America to get back into steel manufacturing, chip shortages may be the new norm with limited neon from a reduction of steel manufacturing in Ukraine.


If you are not a trucker, RV owner, or farmer, you may not even know what DEF fluid is. It is Diesel Exhaust Fluid. Every diesel vehicle made since 2010 is required by the EPA to use it. It is a product made of 67 percent Urea fertilizer and 33 percent distilled water.

A worldwide shortage of the primary ingredient of urea in DEF (Diesel Exhaust Fluid), is looming. And while this may not sound important, it could have a significant impact on America’s trucking, RV industry, and agriculture.

Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) is an emissions control liquid required by modern diesel engines. It is injected into the exhaust stream. DEF is never added to diesel fuel. It is a non-hazardous solution of 32.5 percent urea in 67.5 percent de-ionized water. DEF is clear and colorless and looks exactly like water. It has a slight smell of ammonia, like some home cleaning agents. DEF is used by Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) technology to remove harmful NOx emissions from diesel engines.

Modern diesels require the injection of DEF — diesel exhaust fluid — into the exhaust stream to meet current exhaust emissions standards. Unfortunately, the main component of DEF is urea (along with de-ionized water), a byproduct of industrial ammonia production. And the largest exporter of urea is Russia, currently engaged in a war with Ukraine and, consequently, facing worldwide sanctions.

To make matters worse, urea also is a key ingredient in fertilizer, which has skyrocketed in cost due to the pandemic and shipping slowdowns. In fact, China — the previous No. 4 urea exporter — has at least temporarily stopped exporting the chemical to meet agricultural demands in its own country.

Shortages of trucking and new crops may be the new norm as Russia and China are two of the largest exporters of Urea by a wide margin. Both Russia and China have decided to no longer export Urea.

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Ron Stein is an engineer who, drawing upon 25 years of project management and business development experience, launched PTS Advance in 1995. He is an author, engineer, and energy expert who writes frequently on issues of energy and economics.

Photo: Courtesy CFACT.