Where Did He Go?

If you’d like to get an MRI scan or a welder’s certificate, you must first create the universe. Helium was the second atom created in the searing hot soup of the big bang and our first noble gas. Although it is the second most abundant element in the known universe, the globe has been experiencing a shortage of it since the beginning of summer. The shortage, according to the Huffington Post, threatens birthday parties and fun everywhere. Pursuing this issue was at first to find scientific answers to a scientific question: how did the global economy suddenly find themselves short on this enormously plentiful element? The industry of Helium’s extraction is in the process of changing hands from the U.S. federal government to a more privatized industry, and the manufacturing plants have had little time to respond. Even extraction plants whose development was already underway were caught unawares. The United States is obviously not the only country that boasts Helium as one of its natural resources. Countries like Algeria and Qatar are the United States’ competitors–but not contenders. The United States had a clear monopoly on the export of Helium before the shortage, and isn’t likely to lose its stronghold on the industry. Although the U.S. is taking long to catch up to the demand, other Helium-extracting countries are still further behind. The Helium shortage seems to apply only to the industry that’s extracting it. Helium is used in its liquid form to freeze the magnets used in MRI scanners, but there has been enough to go around for the hospitals that need it. The same goes for arc welding, and manufacturers of Mylar balloons. This shortage is only speculated to continue until the private industry prepares its capital to take part in the business of Helium.

Guest article written by Charlotte Nevarez (