Friday, December 14, 2012

Scientist Party Pooper Wants to Ban Balloons

A University of Cambridge chemist will advocate for a ban on party balloons at this year’s Royal Institution Christmas Lectures in Britain.

“The scarcity of helium is a really serious issue. I can imagine that in 50 years time our children will be saying, ‘I can’t believe they used such a precious material to fill balloons,’” said the doctor, Peter Wothers.

The non-renewable gas is a necessity in hospitals, where it is used to cool magnets in MRI scanners and mixed with oxygen to allow ill patients and newborn babies to breathe more easily.

Currently, about 75 percent of the world’s helium comes from the United States. Scientists have been unsuccessful in finding a sustainable way of making the gas artificially.

Wothers, who is also a fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, intends to assert that the current global shortage of the gas should raise questions about the ways people use helium. He notes that once the gas is released in the atmosphere, it is gone forever.

“If we keep using it for non-essential things like party balloons, where we’re just letting it float off into space, we could be in for some serious problems in around 30 to 50 years’ time. The gas is hugely valuable.”
Hmm, with natural gas production at an all time high in the United States largely due to fracking, and with natural gas prices falling to near all time lows, I would expect helium production from the natural gas extracted from deep rocks to be an added bonus to natural gas production; and indeed, US production of He increased from 75 million cubic meters in 2010 to 83 million cubic meters in 201, so at a minimum He use is not being significantly impacted by shortages, and that's unlikely as long as natural gas remains abundant.

I think Dr. Wother is just a bother.

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