What’s up with helium? (Dec. 5, 2018)


If you have been to a Dollar Tree or Party City lately you have seen the signs, “due to a global shortage we are out of helium.” At first I thought this must be a joke or maybe someone did not order a tank of helium for the store. Well this was months ago and just a week ago I was in the Dollar Tree again and they are still out. I noticed people coming in trying to buy balloons and they could not get them inflated, and then my great nephew was celebrating his birthday last week in Detroit and his mother went to the store to get balloons for his party, she was turned away due to the lack of helium. In order to solve the problem she went to Walmart and bought a small tank for $20.
This shortage needs some investigation. Here is what I found out on the Popular Mechanics web page. Helium goes into a lot more than balloons. Because the gas is inert and has extreme melting and boiling points—both near absolute zero—scientists use it in cryogenics, high-energy accelerators, arc welding, and silicon wafer manufacturing. A severe reduction in the availability of helium could force hospitals to replace costly MRI magnets or restrict patient access to them. The federal government, which sets helium prices, 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.) “Whoa, this is old information. I want to know what is going on now.”
It was difficult to find a simple explanation. Here is what I was able to find out. Helium is a global commodity delivered though a complex supply chain and the helium business was caught without a Plan B and has a number of lessons to learn from the Qatar embargo that impacted upon helium supply markets in summer 2017, says esteemed consultant Phil Kornbluth. In order for me to find out more from this consultant and this site they wanted me to become a subscriber. I opted out. But I was able to find out that there is a Federal Helium Program, President Ronald Reagan tried to get rid of it and so did President Bill Clinton but from what I could find out the federal program is still a government program. With this in mind getting to the bottom of this issue was not as easy as I thought it was going to be. The bottom line is the shortage is real and you will have to find other ways to decorate or pay more for your helium. One of the biggest uses of helium is for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s is just around the corner, either you will not have balloons or you will pay a premium price to get them inflated. Start making plans now on how you are going to decorate for parties and celebrations. The shortage is anticipated to last through 2019.
(Email Debbie at debbienorrell@aol.com.)
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