Helium: A Very Non-Renewable Natural Resource

Where are the environmentalists when it really matters? They pitch fits about depleting natural resources, most of which are to some degree renewable or replaceable. Except for one in particular that is practically both irreplaceable and non-renewable: helium. And who shows up to lobby for the continued preservation of this natural resource? “A coalition including orthopedic surgeons, industrial welders and balloon makers….

Helium has a number of unique characteristics that make it indispensable to current industrial applications, and that seem likely to make it essential for future technologies. (Here’s one interesting backgrounder on the element.) Unfortunately those characteristics include exceptional levity and inertness, so when released into the atmosphere helium gradually evaporates into outer space. The only source of terrestrial helium is radioactive decay, which over eons has produced some natural concentrations in impermeable geological formations. When we drill into these formations for natural gas we often get small quantities of accumulated helium. Once we have tapped those pockets we’ll essentially be out of industrial quantities of helium. The prudent course of action, which the U.S. government has been leading, is to stockpile helium found during drilling in the Federal Helium Reserve. This Reserve just became profitable, which strangely required Congressional action to allow it to continue operations.

Higher Education Bubble Update

ACTA has been fighting against one of the enablers of the higher-education cartel, the Accreditors, for some time:

The six regional agencies that accredit the vast majority of America’s non-profit colleges and universities have miserably failed to ensure educational quality but continue to control access to federal student aid.

Meanwhile the free market continues to provide solutions to our higher education problems. The latest I came across is StraighterLine: A company offering inexpensive online courses guaranteed for credit towards an accredited advanced degree.

U.S. Government Crosses the Rubicon

Our country was founded on the premise that citizens should have the means to restrain and reform their government, by force if necessary. Implicit in this natural right, which was explicitly enumerated in the Bill of Rights, is the principle that the government has no authority deprive The People of arms, or to reserve more effective weapons to its agents for domestic use.

U.S. gun laws have long since crossed this line. The most salient example was the recent request by the Department of Homeland Security for 7000 Personal Defense Weapons. As the name of the RFP indicates these are the best modern weapons for personal defense. With some extremely expensive and limited exceptions, they are also off limits to citizens for three distinct reasons:

  1. They are compact (regulated as “Short Barrel Rifles”)
  2. They are “select-fire,” i.e. capable of fully-automatic operation
  3. They shoot “armor-piercing” bullets (a restricted category that was recently expanded to include a large segment of popular target bullet)

Government agents are allowed to procure and carry these arms for personal defense. As a practical matter, citizens are not. And any citizen caught in possession of a firearm with one of those three characteristics that has not been properly registered is aggressively prosecuted as a felon and punished with up to 10 years in prison and $250,000 in fines.

This is always a step in the evolution of tyranny.