Peak Helium: Get Ready For The $100 Party Balloon

peak everything cover image

Richard Heinberg is going to have to write a volume two for his book Peak Everything, because things keep getting added to the list that ranges now from petroleum to rock music to olive oil.

Now we have two more to add to the list: Helium and Paint.


At Free Market Rates, A Balloon Should Cost A Hundred Bucks

Carl Fredricksen could never have got his house off the ground if he had to pay the real price for helium. According to Nobel Laureate Robert Richardson of Cornell and reported in Livescience, balloons should cost $ 100 a pop based on the current helium supply, but the US Government keeps an artificial cap on the price.

It is estimated that the supply will probably run out in 25 years, but the government fixed the price in 1996, even though demand for the stuff has doubled.

It is needed for superconductors, in space exploration and defence, and medicine; 28% of the American helium use goes to supercool the magnets for MRI scanners. Richardson recently told Congress:

"If this path continues to be followed, within the next ten to fifteen years the United States will become a net importer of helium whose principal foreign sources of helium will be in the Middle East and Russia."

More in Livescience


We're running out of paint?
Cyclicious reports that municipalities are unable to paint lines because two critical ingredients, methyl methacrylate (MMA) and titanium dioxide (TiO2), are in short supply.

MMA is the durable acrylic resin used in highway paint. Dow Chemical is the largest MMA producer in the world, but over the past two years the chemical giant shut down 60% of its production due to reduced demand from the economic recession. They were caught unprepared for the sudden demand when Federal stimulus projects came online this spring. Chinese suppliers are reserving their supply for Chinese highway projects. The result: an acute shortage of highway paint.

The other ingredient, titanium dioxide, is the bright white pigment used in everything from paint to toothpaste. The main exporter is China, and historically this pigment has been very inexpensive. China recently, however, curtailed their exports of the pigment for their own highway projects.

More in Engineering News Record
Other Peaks:

Peak Gold image

Goldfinger could have just waited 40 years for the gold to run out.
Peak Everything: Three More Things To Worry About
Peak Everything: More Things We Are Running Out Of
Peak Everything: Eight Things We Are Running Out Of And Why
Peak Asphalt: Why We Are Running Out Of The Stuff
Building Resilience: Meeting Peak Everything With Systems Thinking
Surviving Peak Everything: The Guardian on Community-led vs Individual Responses

Peak Helium: Get Ready For The $100 Party Balloon
Now we have two more to add to the list: Helium and

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