The End of Party Balloons – and Computer Chips

Amy Johansson/

National helium reserve dissolves on Oct. 1, unless Congress saves it.

The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation sent me an alert about a crisis threatening the U.S. helium reserve – which in turn threatens production of semiconductors and computer chips, as well as birthday parties and lawn chair balloonists.

The government set up the helium reserve in 1925 to ensure the Navy had enough of the gas for the advanced technology of the day – blimps and dirigibles. The Helium Act of 1996 directed the sale of gas from the reserve, and directed its shutdown by this October.

ITIF warned that this makes no sense as “the world is in the midst of a temporary shortage of helium,” and is urging Congress to act before Oct. 1 – a daunting task, as Congress also has to deal with other stuff, such as funding the government.

The Panhandle of Texas is helium central – and the city of Amarillo features the Helium Centennial Time Columns Monument, which I visited a couple of years ago with my wife Deborah, who still remains baffled by the excursion. 

(Image via Amy Johansson/