Lady Gaga, Times Square Make For Special New Year’s Eve in New York City
Pop icon Lady Gaga will join Mayor Michael Bloomberg at the countdown to 2012 in New York City's Times Square. Reuters

The great Norwegian butter shortage got me to thinking that shortages of 2012 might be just the ticket to send my faithful readers off to a rockin' New Year's Eve celebration.

But be of good cheer, every scarcity is an opportunity, either to help alleviate the needs of the many, or invest for the profit of the few. Or both, if you pick the right investment strategy. I leave it to each of you to make a resolution about dealing with scarcity in 2012 as you see fit. Maybe you will consume less, or smarter, maybe you will get involved, as they say. There is an election coming up that might just have a teensy influence on how these shortages are dealt with. One thing we can all agree on though, right, I didn't make these up.

So first, that famous Norwegian butter shortage and this fabulous (but somewhat NSFW) video from Norwegian comic and blogger, Bjørnar Løberg:

Power Shortages

Namibia will face significant power shortage as from next year until 2015. By winter next year, the country will be lacking 80MW to cover its demand and the deficiency will continue to rise every year, accumulating to a predicted shortage of 300MW by 2015. 80MW is enough to supply the households and industries of both Windhoek and Okahandja.This bleak scenario was painted by the Managing Director of Namibia's power provider Nampower, Paulinus Shilamba, on Tuesday in the capital. The growing mining sector has been identified as the main driver of this development.

Namibia's main mining products include diamonds, uranium, gold, zinc, copper and lead. Namibia is one of the world's largest diamond producers and uranium.

China is facing coal shortages in 2012, so watch out for all those things made in China:

China will continue to face coal shortages in 2012, amid strong local demand and limited coal transportation capacity, said Huang Qing, board secretary of China Shenhua Energy Co., addressing the 2012 China Galaxy Securities Investment Strategy Seminar held in Sanya City of Hainan Province in December.?China's urbanization rate grew from 19.4 percent in 1980 to 46.6 percent in 2010 and is expected to grow to about 51 percent by 2015, Huang said.

That's a lot more coal, and other energy sources, which is why China is buying everywhere, including, recently, Iraq.

Hard Drive Shortage

Thailand, because of the floods, has put a big dent in hard drive availability for 2012, and that will limit the number of PCs that will ship in the first quarter of 2012, according to market research firm IHS iSuppli. It's analysts are cutting their first-quarter PC forecast by 3.8 million units-to 84.2 million-and reducing their full-year growth numbers for 2012, saying worldwide PC shipments for the entire year will rise 6.8 percent over 2011, down from the 9.5 percent growth the firm forecasted in August.Getting hit the hardest will be notebooks, which are the systems most impacted by the HDD shortages, the IHS iSuppli analysts said in a report Dec. 8. They are now predicting that notebook shipments will grow 10.1 percent year-over-year in the first-quarter 2012, down from the 13.8 percent they initially forecasted.

For a more general review of the energy issue:

Worldwide energy shortage site

Drug Shortages

Adderall Shortage Up to 15 million children and adults are thought to have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). But that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to drug shortages. For the latest on which drugs are in short supply check:

Current Drug Shortages from FDA

Current Drug Shortages from American Society of Health-System Pharmacists

Food Shortages

Diverting corn for biofuel may cause animal feed shortages in 2012

If you like your bacon, you might take a look at this video, which reports that we may see shortages of feed, which in turn could lead to shortages of meat, in general, or higher prices.

And there have been worldwide food price rises, that are certainly connectable, if not connected to a year of global unrest, such as the Arab Spring, which may be good news, or may not be. As food prices continue to plague much of the poorer parts of the planet, initial hopes that sweeping changes will lead to democratic governments, may see food pressures lead instead to general civil unrest and threaten the ability of fledgling democratic governments to succeed. For a somewhat breathless review of the 2011 coverage of the food-price news, watch below

And this, sobering assessment of the specially acute situation in West Africa from OXFAM--In 2012 the Sahel region of West Africa is once again likely to face a serious food crisis that could, if early and effective action is not taken, prove as costly to lives and livelihoods as the past food crises in 2005, 2008 and 2010, which affected more than 10 million people

Water Shortages

It's threatening the entire Southwest U.S., and much of the world, but in the U.S. it's certainly getting tough, with rationing on the horizon, in South Texas:

It's ironic that in 2010, South Texas was in danger of Katrina-like flooding, and now we're looking at limited irrigation in 2012, unless weather patterns change drastically, said Dr. Juan Enciso, a Texas AgriLife Research water engineer at the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Weslaco.

The Valley's flood control system barely withstood the massive floodwaters brought on by Hurricane Alex, which made landfall in northern Mexico in late June, followed by a rainy tropical depression, Encisosaid.

The good news was that the rain events of 2010 filled our reservoirs behind Falcon and Amistad dams, he said. Unfortunately, that was followed by a severe drought in both Texas and Mexico this year, one of the driest ever. Record amounts of water were used to the point that growers will likely face rationing in 2012. Agriculture in South Texas used more than 1 million acre feet of water this year compared to only 519,000 acre feet in 2010, Enciso said.

For a global perspective on the ongoing problem of an increasing world population that is straining the supply of potable water, check the Worldwide Water Shortage Map-UN . From the U.N.: Around 700 million people in 43 countries suffer today from water scarcity.

Construction Shortages

News from the construction material front: Glass fiber will see shortages due to a lack of capacity.

As an excellent composite material and important metal substitute, glass fiber has been applied to construction, transportation, electric and electronics, wind power and other industries widely. From 2000 to 2010, the global glass fiber output saw steady growth, with the annual compound growth rate of 7.2 percent. In 2011, the global glass fiber output will reach 4.88 million tons, and the demand will be 4.86 million tons, roughly achieving balance. In the future, affected by sluggish capacity expansion and increasing demand, glass fiber prices will continue to rise slightly. In 2012, glass fiber will be in short supply.

Job Shortages

On the job crisis front in the U.S., before blaming it all on the teachers, it is worth bearing in mind that we don't have enough of them already, which makes it impossible for the ones we do have to actually deal with their student loads. Consider:

Teacher Shortages from the U.S. Dept. of Education

And what teachers are we most in need of? Guess what the ones with tough to find skills.

Top Shortages for Teachers:

1. Bilingual Education


3. Science

4. Reading

5. Special Education - Learning Behavior Specialist

6. Special Education - Speech and Language Impaired

7. Special Education - Severe Profound including blind and deaf as well as early childhood

8. Special Education - Speech and language Impaired

9. Bilingual Special Education

10. Special Education - Emotionally Disturbed/Severe Emotionally Disturbed

And finally, for those who think that things would be fine if only we were all more educated and skilled, let's take a quick look at the so-called Skilled Worker Shortage.

My favorite take on this is from a column by Susan Seitel at Huffington Post, reviewing a recent radio debate between Peter Cappelli and Cheryl Oldham. Cappelli is director of the Center for Human Resources at The Wharton School and professor of education at the University of Pennsylvania. Oldham is with the Institute for a Competitive Workforce, part of the U.S. Chamber. S

Sure, they agreed that companies can't find the workers they need, but here's why: Companies want to pay beginner wages for experienced workers. And offer no real training (5 hours every two years on average) to the workers they hire, despite protestations from the Chamber of Commerce. Oh those pesky facts, maybe if we all just believed there was training we could all instantly becomes as skilled as someone with years of experience.

As Seitel summed up Cappelli (and who doesn't know this is true, really?): It's not a skills shortage, concludes Cappelli. A shortage means even at the market rate you can't find the skills--they're just not available. Today the skills are available but companies are saying they just can't afford to pay to get them.

I couldn't have said it better, so I won't. But for the New Year, I will just add this little bit:

Today's companies are looking for temp workers with advanced skills, no matter what they say. There is no long-term future, by which I mean, say a job you hold five years, even if you have those skills; you will be flex-sized as the company continuously adjusts its workforce to meet fluctuating demand. This means that if you don't already know what you are doing in some job, then you can never have the time you need to learn those skills, have a mentor, etc. It means for those with skills that they can never advance their skills either, or move up the ladder, generally speaking. And please, no Horatio Alger anecdotal exceptions to this observation. The average job duration, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is now under five years.

All the shortages aside, though, tonight there are two things always in abundance: hope and good cheer.

And with that, Happy New Year.

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