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Opinion

Earth beginning to run out of non-renewable energy resource

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March 23, 2012

News flash — the helium on planet Earth is now “dust in the wind,” figuratively speaking.

For those of you who do not know what helium is, maybe you shouldn’t be in college. It is an element on the periodic table and is a colorless, odorless and non-toxic gas.

Yes, it is what you inhale from a balloon and allows you to talk like “Alvin and the Chipmunks” for a few seconds.

So why should all y’all care? Here’s the deal, helium is important to our everyday lifestyles.

Helium is used in specialized refrigerators, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, also known as MRIs, to fill blimps and balloons, cooling medium for nuclear reactors, gas for supersonic wind tunnels (so cool), and in a nut-shell, used to grow other things for pressuring liquid fuel rockets and used for some other stuff, too.

You’re probably thinking, well this is a no brainer, just go to the helium mine with a jar and collect more already. Wrong.

In order to “mine” helium, which is next to impossible, it escapes when we drill for natural gas and oil so that is the only time we can harvest it. Once it escapes into the air, it’s hasta la vista, baby.

As you may recall from your chemistry days, helium is a non-renewable resource but it is the most abundant resource in our universe. This means it is in space so we have to go out there and get. Beam me up already then.

Wrong again. If you may not recall, NASA is no longer technically in business because of President Obama’s new budget funding plan. Word is, only private companies who can pay to send astronauts into space will benefit.

The problem with the new budget, returning to the moon is not going to happen in 2020. And this, friends, is where the problem lies.

The sun is giving off helium-infused solar winds but our atmosphere keeps us from capturing it. Those winds are also hitting the moon as well, which is trapping the helium inside the lunar soil.

We have been wasting this non-renewable resource in balloons for the past 50 to 60 years and just now realize we might need it. The government has been stockpiling helium, selling it for cheap and trying to get rid of it.

The average cost of the amount of helium that fills a regular sized balloon is estimated to be $100, according to scientists.

I don’t know about you, but I will be contacting the nearest party supply stores and buying as much helium as I can from them. In 20 years I intend to sell back that helium to the government and retire early.

I am no fortune-teller, but maybe there will be technology advanced enough to replace the need for helium in the near future. Maybe I too will finally get my hovercraft board and be able to hover around with Marty McFly.

Ashley Hall is a senior majoring in journalism. She is a huge Boston sports fan; the Celtics are her favorite.