Friday, September 20, 2013

A helium petition

You've probably already seen the Derek Lowe post about the potential for helium shortages, due to the U.S. government's potential shutdown of the Federal Helium Reserve. (How we got here is pretty bizarre, to be honest.)

My official position has pretty much been the same as Derek's -- there's a short-term crimp in the supply due to worries about lack of Congressional action and also a lack of industrial capacity. There are also long-term worries (helium is a non-renewable resource, after all.) But we're not going to run out of helium in the next 20 to 30 years, as there appears to be plenty of industrial capacity coming online.

All of this to say that there's a petition to encourage the President and Congress to pass a bill to address the Federal Helium Reserve issue (which the House has one version, and the Senate has passed another (just yesterday!)). Now the bills need to be reconciled, passed and given to the President for his signature.

If you are so inclined, sign the petition!


  1. I'd disagree on minute points here; helium is a renewable resource, we just need to work out hydrogen fusion and we'll have all the helium we need. Also, we're not running out of it, so much as we're depleting its concentrated stores, since we're not reacting it with anything.

    1. Ummm, no. The amount of helium that would be produced from a hypothetical all-fusion planet-wide power system would be trivial.

      Helium is in fact one of our most precious resources, as when we use it we literally do lose it. Once it is released into the atmosphere, it escapes the planet. No other element does that. While we aren't going to "run out" in 20-30 years, helium is going to become a major constraint, and frankly I have no idea where we are going to be getting it from a century from now. It is mostly a by-product of natural gas production, and we will have long since burned through most of our gas reserves by then.

    2. You're absolutely right. Shoulda read up a bit further before posting.

    3. The half-life of He in the atmosphere is over a million years, Google it. Only a geologist would call that fast.

  2. Why do people who write thiese petitions are not even semi-literate?

    - for the Closure of Federal Helium Reserve
    - medical treatment using MRI scanning
    - set to expire in October 7, 2013
    - risking the health of American
    - the shut down

    And there's more. How do expect to be taken seriously if your writing is crap, and you can't be bothered to have it proofread?

    1. Of course I undermined my own argument by misspelling word "these". Perhaps obsessing over Tiffani Thiessen is not good for me.