What’s going on with this helium shortage?
We’re going to dumb it up today for a change with the news that the world is running out of helium!
By Adrian Collins
So are we nearly out of helium then? Should I be worried about my hilarious squeaky voice routine?
It seems we’re not running out of the stuff, rather the price is going sky high. Supply and demand, as they say, but we don’t need to worry yet apparently, the high-pitched voice trick will live on, it’s just going to cost more. Balloons for your New Years party might be a bit more expensive in 2013, but you could also just blow them up using regular air too.
Ah right, so where do we get helium from?
Plenty of places, it’s the second most abundant element in the universe. Helium is normally generated as a byproduct of natural gas mining, so the slow down in that sector means there’s less helium floating about. Nearly 75% of the world’s helium comes from the US, and two of the major plants are having maintenance done for the last few months, which is why the price has been squeaking up ever since.
Do we need helium for anything except balloons?
Actually, yes, we do. Helium is used in MRI machines, the production of water, and has played a key role in space exploration, or at least that’s what the lads in the know at popularmechanics.com are saying. They also use it at the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, but that’s way too complicated for us to try and understand.
How does this affect me?
Not a huge amount we guess, but your planned one-man round the world balloon trip in a helium powered balloon has just gotten more expensive. For a thousand cubic feet of helium, the price has jumped ten dollars in the last few months to $85, fairly deflating news altogether.