Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Slate

November 23, 2012

Slate: Macy's parade contributes to loss of helium supplies

(Continued)

Since the United States is the biggest supplier of helium globally, the market value for helium has been artificially lowered. While some other countries (Canada, Russia, and Algeria) produce helium, they collectively supply only 22 percent of global demand. When the act was first passed, the price set was close to double the market price. The stock was not depleted, and in fact, a 2000 report by the NAS concluded that everything was going fine and that the price the BLM was asking was still above market value, writing, "Based on the information assembled for this report, the committee believes that the Helium Privatization Act of 1996 will not have a substantial impact on helium users," in part because "[s]ince the mid-1980s, there have been no drastic increases in the price of helium and no shortages of supply." But then global demand increased and the price tripled by 2008. U.S. consumption actually decreased, but that was more than offset by increased use abroad — primarily in Asia for semiconductor and fiberoptics industries. The market bought just about every cubic foot of helium the reserve would ship, and more than half of the reserve has been depleted.

In 2010, the NAS issued a new report that detailed the slow-moving disaster, concluding that the law "could amount to a taxpayer-financed subsidy for consumption of this scarce publicly owned resource." The reserve was being tapped too quickly, supplying one-third of world demand. Worse, since the price of helium from the reserve is so low, companies are discouraged from purifying helium because they can't get a fair price for it. Natural gas companies have little incentive to invest in the equipment and energy necessary to purify it, especially when the helium concentration is low-so the helium is being lost to the atmosphere.

Text Only
Slate
  • baby-generic.jpg For millennials, out-of-wedlock childbirth is the norm

    This month brings us yet another reminder that, for young Americans, having children outside of marriage is very much "the new normal," as The New York Times once put it.

    June 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • May 2014 was the hottest may in recorded history

    According to new data released this week, May 2014 is officially the warmest May in recorded history.
    Both NASA and the Japan Meteorological Agency have tentatively ranked May at the top of historical measurements, though NASA's numbers are preliminary because crucial information is still missing from China.

    June 20, 2014

  • GM recalls soar past 20 million. Why don't consumers care?

    In case you thought there couldn't possibly be another General Motors recall so soon, you're just not thinking big enough. This week, GM said it was recalling 3.36 million more cars. The cause: an ignition switch defect that could result in keys carrying extra weight (read: a keychain) to slip out of position and shut the vehicle off abruptly during "some jarring event."

    June 18, 2014

  • No one is against devoted dads

    Father's Day is Sunday, which means that it's time for pundits and politicians to scold the American public - with special ire reserved for black members of the American public - for our supposed indifference to the wonder and awe of fatherhood.

    June 12, 2014

  • 74129880-graduates.jpg The fate of the overeducated and underemployed

    According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, about 44 percent of young bachelor's degree holders lucky enough to be working are employed in positions that technically don't require their degree. While that number isn't far off from the historical norm — 22-year-olds have always needed a little time to find their professional footing — the fraction stuck scraping bottom in truly low-paying jobs has grown quite a bit since the recession.

    June 4, 2014 1 Photo

  • Skype's real-time language translator

    This week at Re/Code's Code Conference, Microsoft announced a real-time, multilingual translation beta called Skype Translate. The service can mediate between two video chatterers who speak different languages by providing text and audio translation after each person finishes speaking. Currently the service works for English and German, but Microsoft says it will support other languages soon. The beta will be released later this year.

    May 29, 2014

  • New Orleans does away with traditional public schools

    The second-graders paraded to the Dumpster in the rear parking lot, where they chucked boxes of old work sheets, notebooks and other detritus into the trash, emptying their school for good.

    May 29, 2014

  • Amazon sells steroids and stimulants banned in sports

    I have by no means executed a comprehensive search of wares sold by Amazon directly or through its third-party sellers, but I found other prescription drugs for sale without a prescription, including the antibiotic norfloxacin and the muscle relaxant methocarbamol. Both compounds, like clindamycin, warrant careful oversight to avoid complications or endangering public health, such as by breeding antibiotic resistance.

    May 29, 2014

  • 2010-Winter-Olympic-Games-001.jpg Nobody wants to host the Winter Olympics

    If we end up watching slopestyle from the Central Asia steppes in 2022, it will likely be because it's becoming clear that nobody in Europe wants to host these Olympics anymore. Publics may finally be getting wise to the fact that the long-term economic benefits of hosting mega-events like the Olympics or the World Cup are usually negligible at best.

    May 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • Woman sues a New York Hospital for forcing a C-section. Can doctors do that?

    Though Dray's doctor claims he did not force her to have a C-section, her hospital record included a note signed by the hospital's director of maternal and fetal medicine that said, "I have decided to override her refusal to have a C-section."

    May 21, 2014