The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Community News Network

November 22, 2012

Slate: Macy's parade contributes to loss of helium supplies

(Continued)

Since the United States is the biggest supplier of helium globally, the market value for helium has been artificially lowered. While some other countries (Canada, Russia, and Algeria) produce helium, they collectively supply only 22 percent of global demand. When the act was first passed, the price set was close to double the market price. The stock was not depleted, and in fact, a 2000 report by the NAS concluded that everything was going fine and that the price the BLM was asking was still above market value, writing, "Based on the information assembled for this report, the committee believes that the Helium Privatization Act of 1996 will not have a substantial impact on helium users," in part because "[s]ince the mid-1980s, there have been no drastic increases in the price of helium and no shortages of supply." But then global demand increased and the price tripled by 2008. U.S. consumption actually decreased, but that was more than offset by increased use abroad — primarily in Asia for semiconductor and fiberoptics industries. The market bought just about every cubic foot of helium the reserve would ship, and more than half of the reserve has been depleted.

In 2010, the NAS issued a new report that detailed the slow-moving disaster, concluding that the law "could amount to a taxpayer-financed subsidy for consumption of this scarce publicly owned resource." The reserve was being tapped too quickly, supplying one-third of world demand. Worse, since the price of helium from the reserve is so low, companies are discouraged from purifying helium because they can't get a fair price for it. Natural gas companies have little incentive to invest in the equipment and energy necessary to purify it, especially when the helium concentration is low-so the helium is being lost to the atmosphere.

Text Only
Community News Network
  • Wal-Mart to cut prices more aggressively in back-to-school push

    Wal-Mart Stores plans to cut prices more aggressively during this year's back-to-school season and will add inventory to its online store as the chain battles retailers for student spending.

    July 21, 2014

  • Hospitals let patients schedule ER visits

    Three times within a week, 34-year-old Michael Granillo went to the emergency room at Northridge Hospital Medical Center in Los Angeles because of intense back pain. Each time, Granillo, who didn't have insurance, stayed for less than an hour before leaving without being seen by a doctor.

    July 21, 2014

  • Starved Pennsylvania 7-year-old weighed only 25 pounds

    A 7-year-old Pennsylvania boy authorities described as being so underweight he looked like a human skeleton has been released from the hospital.

    July 21, 2014

  • Malaysians wonder 'Why us?' after second loss of airline jet

    It was all too familiar. Grieving families rushing to airport. The flashing television graphics of a plane's last radar appearance. The uncomfortable officials before a heavy thicket of microphones.
    For many Malaysians, the disappearance of Flight 370 in March has been a long trauma from which the nation has not yet recovered.

    July 18, 2014

  • A quarter of the world's most educated people live in the 100 largest cities

    College graduates are increasingly sorting themselves into high-cost, high-amenity cities such as Washington, New York, Boston and San Francisco, a phenomenon that threatens to segregate us across the country by education.

    July 18, 2014

  • Your chocolate addiction is only going to get more expensive

    For nearly two years, cocoa prices have been on the rise. Finally, that's affecting the price you pay for a bar of chocolate - and there's reason to believe it's only the beginning.

    July 18, 2014

  • Facebook tests button to let people shop from its website

    Members on desktop computers or mobile devices can click a "buy" button to make purchases through advertisements or other posts on the world's largest social network, the Menlo Park, California-based company said Thursday in a blog post.

    July 17, 2014

  • The terrible history of passenger planes getting shot out of the sky

    What is more clear is that, if initial reports are true, this would be the deadliest incident of a civilian passenger plane being shot down in modern memory. In some instances, the causes of the disaster are still shrouded in mystery. Here are some of the worst events.

    July 17, 2014

  • 130408_NT_BEA_good kids We're raising a generation of timid kids

    A week ago, a woman was charged with leaving her child in the car while she went into a store. Her 11-year-old child. This week, a woman was arrested for allowing her 9-year-old daughter to go to the park alone. Which raises just one question: America, what the heck is wrong with you?

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • web_starbucks-cof_big_ce.jpg Starbucks sees more Apple-like stores after Colombia debut

    This week Starbucks opened its first location in Colombia — a 2,700-square-foot store with a heated patio, concrete columns, mirrors on the ceiling and walls of colorful plants.

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo