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Good Question: Helium - A Dwindling Part Of Kansas History

By: Jeff Herndon Email
By: Jeff Herndon Email

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Tonight on good Question, a few weeks ago, we told you about a helium shortage. Some of the local party supply shops are already feeling the pinch. It’s an element that has played an important role in our state’s history. But how is helium, a gas most of us associate with party balloons, part of Kansas history?

Good question.

The experts say at the rate we are burning through helium, the world could run out in 30 years. No more helium! No more party balloons or high squeaky voices! But helium also has some very important uses, like medical imaging, electronics manufacturing, welding, and space exploration just to name a few.

So why is it a big deal for Kansas? For starters, many believe that helium was first discovered in Dexter, Kansas in 1905. At that time, the Kansas earth was crawling with Helium. It became one our state’s leading economic resources. Even today, Kansas is the nation’s leader in helium production. In 2009, 12 of the nations 22 helium extraction plants were located in Kansas.

The demand for helium has exploded over the past quarter century. Keep in mind, helium is a non-renewable resource, and it cannot be artificially produced. So when it’s gone, it’s gone – kind of like that party balloon you got as a kid and accidentally let it go outside. It’s gone.

If you have a good question, send it to me at news@kake.com. I’ll do my best to answer your good question every Thursday on KAKE News at 6.


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