Helium is the second-most common element in the universe. Not to burst anyone’s bubble, but experts warn that the world’s helium supply could run out within ten years. Is this shortage and the accompanying rise in helium cost impacting local businesses? What measures are they taking to conserve helium? Here are some angles to consider in localizing this issue.
Party supply stores
Party balloons are perhaps the most obvious use for helium, and with graduation parties, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day coming up, customers may be disappointed if they can’t get their balloons inflated. Local publications report that the shortage is impacting party supply stores in Topeka, Kansas and the Bay Area. Are stores near you impacted, too? Are they passing on higher costs to their customers? Or limiting the number of balloons each customer can inflate? Are there environmental benefits to fewer helium-filled balloons?
Other uses for helium
Helium has more important uses than balloons. It’s also used in MRI magnets, semiconductor chips production for computers and smartphones, welding, and airbags. Are local hospitals concerned about the shortage? Are there any production plants in your neck of the woods that might be impacted, too?
Mining for helium
The United States has helium reserves in Amarillo, Texas and in parts of Kansas and Oklahoma. If your community has a helium reserve nearby, it might be worth explaining to readers how helium is mined (similar to natural gas, since helium is a component of natural gas) and how it’s separated from the nitrogen. Also find out if rising helium prices are benefitting those who mine helium or related industries.
Helium consultants: There’s a consultant for every industry imaginable, and helium is no exception. For instance, there’s Kornbluth Helium Consulting, which is based in New Jersey.
Professors: A chemistry professor may be able to shed further context on why helium supplies are running out and what this might mean. ExpertiseFinder.com lists over 350 chemistry professors, searchable by state or province.