Friday, November 15, 2013

The Current Status of the Federal Helium Reserve, In Case You Were Wondering . . .

One issue that should keep Americans up worrying at nights is the current status of the Federal Helium Reserve.

No worries.  It is still there near Amarillo, Texas, storing vital helium for America's defense and scientific needs.

The Bureau of Land Management's brief history of the Federal Helium Reserve notes that stockpiling began in 1925.  At that point, the Army and Navy were interested in the possibilities of dirigibles for wartime use.  USS Akron  is the best known example of naval airship construction and use.

Development of more reliable and effective airplanes quickly killed defense applications.

After World War II, NASA and research communities relied on the reserve for their helium.  Overall, however, "federal demand for helium did not live up to postwar expectations."

In 1996, the goals of the program shifted.  The government now operates the reserve and pipeline system, provides helium gas, evaluates helium bearing gas fields, and provides access to land for helium recovery.

The helium reserve must be of immense national importance.  Right before the government shutdown last month, Congress passed and Obama signed a bill designed to keep the reserve fully funded and operational.

Helium, especially in liquid form, is vital to research and it gradually growing more expensive.  Reports indicate that the United States reserve, the only of its kind, has allowed supplies to dwindle.

A helium reserve is needed and it may be a good idea to have more than one.  The private sector, however, can and should run this operation.

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