The world is wasting our irreplaceable helium, and nobody cares
Ethan Siegel

I care about this, I think it’s an important and underrepresented topic. Lots of us care, we just lack the influence to affect useful change.

The best way to combat scarcity of goods is to sell them for their market value, this modulates the price to the extent that only serious purchasers who have functional economic interests in the goods are able to afford access to them.

I know this sounds antithetical to dogma, but having commercial interests in charge of managing scarce reserves results in minimization of scarcity, which is explicitly the function of a price. A non-commercial interest, like a government, lacks the ability to identify the market value of a good, and as such either unnecessarily overcharges, denying access to people with reasonable economic uses, or under-charges to the extent that scarce goods are squandered.

If helium were sold at market rates by a group that had to concern themselves of their going economic interest when the asset was depleted, instead of by fiat demand from a public management agency, we’d see much higher prices for helium, more in line to the actual availability and replacement rate. These higher prices would incentivize the recapture and reuse of helium in medical devices where it’s currently dumped into the atmo, and the dramatic reduction of wasteful uses like balloons.

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