Saturday, November 16, 2013

Laughing gas

The BBC writes a piece on the horrible prospect of a helium shortage;
The US has been selling off its helium reserve, established in the 1920s to provide gas for airships - but even so, shortages have been occurring.
Some scientists believe a finite resource that could one day run out should not be used for party balloons.
Because helium is crucial to MRIs and semi-conductors. But, why, oh why, would that mean shortages would develop?
...since the mid-1990s...the US has been clawing back the cost of storing the gas by gradually selling it off on the open market.
Despite this, the price of helium has doubled over the past 10 years.Scare stories about this or that resource running out are a commonplace of doomsayers - but this autumn, the world got a taste of what a helium shortage could mean.
US semiconductor manufacturers knew that under the terms of a 1996 law, the US helium reserve was legally obliged to turn off the tap last month. 
Rather than just auction off the gas to the highest bidder, and let supply and demand come into equilibrium through price.

The BBC had time and space for party balloons, but not elementary economics.

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