I had not heard about a Helium shortage until I read Dorie Dillard's post about her personal experience with it. Since I will be needing some for an event at the end of the month, I decided to Google Helium and what popped up was all the stories about the shortages. Make your plans accordingly. We may just have to do it the old-fashioned way.
Make your comments directly to Dorie through her post link below.
I was on my way to a birthday luncheon and ran into a nearest HEB grocery to get some Helium balloons and they were so sorry..they were out of Helium. I stopped at another HEB..same story..I stopped at a Party Pig store that has tons of balloons and they were out!! I stopped at Randall’s Grocery and finally they had a helium supply so I could grab some Happy Birthday balloons and get to the luncheon!
I vaguely remember Geno telling me about a helium shortage so decided after that run around to find out the scoop! Well it seems one of the most abundant elements in the universe is getting harder to come by. Although helium is the second most important element in the universe, most of its Earth’s atmosphere bleeds off into space. Believe it or not the Texas Panhandle is the United States helium capital! Say What…. In the natural gas fields near Amarillo the US government maintains the country’s largest helium storehouse.
Did you know the federal government sets helium prices? Surprise..surprise!! They announced in April that helium prices would spike from $75.75 per thousand cubic feet (Mcf) in FY 2012 to $84 per Mcf in FY 2013. (Last year, prices rose only 75 cents.) This price spike, along with uncertain federal policy (and a peculiar industry setup to begin with), is threatening to create a shortage.
Although other countries produce helium, the natural gas fields elsewhere around the globe are much less helium-rich than those near Amarillo. Because helium was critical to military reconnaissance and space exploration in the mid-20th Century, Congress mandated that the government encourage private helium producers nationwide to sell their helium to the government and store it near Amarillo as part of the Federal Helium Program.
It’s hard to believe but today, the U.S. alone produces 75 percent of the world’s helium. Nearly half of that total, or roughly 30 percent of the world’s helium supply, comes from the U.S. Federal Helium Reserve. That reserve is held in a huge natural underground reservoir near Amarillo called the Bush Dome. The dome is connected to a pipeline that links the stored helium with nearby helium refining facilities and the natural gas fields in Kansas.
But guess what private industry is leery to start production. They haven’t been as interested as Congress hoped. Until more companies begin producing helium on their own, consumers are left with spiking prices and tightening supplies.
The U.S. Senate is considering a bill called the Helium Stewardship Act of 2012. It would extend the 2015 deadline for the sell-off of the Federal Helium Program and allow the federal government to continue supplying world markets with helium, selling it at market prices instead of government-set prices. But of course like many other bills Congress has taken no action since its introduction in April.
How could the no action by Congress affect the US consumer? As helium reserves tighten, the greatest impact could be on healthcare and small-scale scientific research. For example, a shortage could restrict the ability to obtain an MRI, too, if scanners become difficult to maintain with little helium to be found.
I don’t know about you but I can certainly live without the helium balloons for a party but when we start impacting the already shaky healthcare system..we need to take a second look and make some long term decisions!
When I don’t know the answer I’m not afraid to research until I find the why of something. If you’re looking to work with a professional in the real estate market and want to buy or sell in NW Austin give me a call. I’d welcome the opportunity to discuss how I can help.
As always important information is brought to you as a courtesy of Dorie Dillard Coldwell Banker United Realtors; your NW Austin Real Estate Consultant.
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