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The Increasing Scarcity of Helium

Stashed in: Economics!, Politics!, Science!, Balloons!, Charts!, Price Is Right!, Freakonomics

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This seems like a bad idea:

By 1996 there were a billion cubic meters of helium in the Reserve. But it had ceased to look like an industry the government should still be involved with, partially because its finances had been very poorly managed. From the Washington Post:

By 1996 [...] the Helium Reserve looked like a waste. Blimps no longer seemed quite so vital to the nation’s defense and, more important, the reserve was $1.4 billion in debt after paying drillers to extract helium from natural gas.

Both Reagan and Clinton promised to do away with the reserve, and in 1996 Congress passed the Helium Privatization Act. The Act ordered the Reserve to sell off its stockpile, starting in 2005, at a formula-driven price -- not auctioned off at market rate, and to cease sales and shut down operations by 2015.

At the current consumption rates, we would deplete the world’s helium reserves within 100 years.

There's no substitute for real balloons. :)

Good chart:

The Increasing Scarcity of Helium - PandaWhale

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