Why the World’s Quickly Running Out of Helium

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Don’t tell this dude.

It may not match peak oil in terms of a global crisis, but the world is running out of another non-renewable resource: helium. According to a report in the The Independent, scientists estimate the world may have little more than 25 years left of the gas. What will the kids do without their balloons!?!?! (Watch TIME’s video on the helium crisis)

The problem stems from a U.S. policy which has driven down the price of helium artificially. The U.S. holds a massive store of the gas in the U.S. Natural Helium Reserve, but this must be sold of by 2015. “In 1996, the US Congress decided to sell off the strategic reserve and the consequence was that the market was swelled with cheap helium because its price was not determined by the market. The motivation was to sell it all by 2015,”  Professor Robert Richardson of Cornell told the Independent.

Helium accumulates on earth through the gradual degeneration of radioactive rock, with no means of artificial synthesis currently in existence. The world running out of helium could spell the end for certain technologies like MRI scanners (where helium is used as a coolant) and some nuclear technology.

Richardson told the Independent he believes the price of the helium used to fill a typical-sized balloon should be set at $100, to better reflect the gas’s scarcity. (Via)

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