Normally, a shortage of hot air would not be a bad thing, but for ballooning enthusiasts worldwide, the current helium shortage is not to be taken lightly. In fact, the gas is expected to be in short supply for months, possibly years.
The helium shortage has affected ballooning competitions and showcases globally. This was most evident in the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta which featured the popular America’s Challenge race. While hydrogen has tried to fill the helium gap, many U.S. racers do not have balloons that can utilize it. As a result, only five teams were able to compete in this year’s race.
The race’s founder, Mark Sullivan, recently told CBS News affiliate KRQE in Albuquerque that helium was usually abundant and inexpensive. However, today, it costs nearly $15,000 to fill a balloon.
This may change thanks to a new U.S. hydrogen balloon manufacturing company. Until then, Sullivan believes that others will import hydrogen balloons so they can fly without the huge expense of helium. Hydrogen-based gas ballooning is now common in Europe.
Until then, CBS News reports that a group of scientists are claiming that the world’s helium supply could be entirely depleted in less than 30 years. This is due to the fact that it is a non-renewable resource collected mainly from the very slow decay of radioactive elements which are being used faster than they are being created. Additionally, Congress had mandated in 1996 that the helium reserve by sold off by 2015. Back then, the helium supply was plentiful, though that is not the case today.