It’s a question that is uncomfortable to ask. If Joe Biden was purposely trying to weaken the United States, what would he be doing differently? Earlier in the week, the Biden administration announced the federal government would be selling a huge portion of America’s crucial helium stockpile.
While most think of helium as the element that makes party balloons float, the gas is vital to America’s healthcare and industrial might.
An inert and non-flammable gas, helium has a diversity of applications across various industries. One of its primary uses is in the realm of medical diagnostics, where it is employed as a cooling agent in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines to maintain the superconducting state of the magnets.
Additionally, helium is crucial in scientific research, particularly for cryogenic experiments and studies involving extremely low temperatures. In the manufacturing sector, helium serves as a leak detection agent for its ability to escape through the smallest openings, ensuring the integrity of sealed systems.
The sale was mandated during the Obama years, and like so much of Biden’s administration, the White House is just finishing the job of his predecessor’s “fundamental transformation of America” promised in 2008.
The Daily Caller reports that “the Biden Administration sold off the Federal Helium Reserve on Thursday which accounts for 30% of the nation’s helium supply.
The stockpile, which is located underground in Amarillo, Texas, is comprised of 425 miles of pipeline that travels throughout Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma, according to NBC News. The deal has yet to be finalized but will likely go to the highest bidder, gas company Messer, according to the report.
The sale was first mandated by Congress in 2013 under the Helium Stewardship Act and was originally supposed to take place in 2021 but hit a series of delays. The Bureau of Land Management said the legislation “seeks to mitigate a helium shortage by enabling the Secretary of the Interior…to continue to sell crude helium from the Federal Helium Reserve.”
In 2022, Biden began depleting America’s oil reserve in order to sell it to China.
The helium sale has healthcare suppliers nervous. NBC News reported, “Regulatory and logistical issues with the facility threaten a temporary shutdown as it passes from public to private ownership, and hospital supply chain experts worry the sale could have serious consequences for health care down the road — especially when it comes to MRIs.
To be sure, a Federal Helium Reserve shutdown wouldn’t mean that MRIs would suddenly power down across the country, said Soumi Saha, senior vice president of government affairs at Premier Inc., which contracts with helium suppliers on behalf of 4,400 hospitals in the U.S. ‘But we are stressing about this shortage. From a health care perspective, MRI machines are the No. 1 concern.’
American patients undergo an estimated 40 million MRI scans each year to help diagnose cancer, brain and spinal cord injuries, strokes and heart conditions. The superconductive magnet-powered imaging machines give doctors clear, high-resolution images of areas inside the body they can’t see on X-rays and CT scans. But without liquid helium, the Earth’s coldest element, MRI machines can’t keep their magnets cool enough to generate these images.”
In a letter to the White House, the Compressed Gas Association, along with four other trade associations, asked for a delay in selling the vital element, explaining how the sale could impact critical interests of the United States.
“Timely, critical patient care would suffer if helium supplies constricted further,” Scott Whitaker, AdvaMed’s CEO, wrote in an email to NBC News. “AdvaMed urges the White House to delay the sale and privatization of the Federal Helium Reserve until outstanding issues identified by the Compressed Gas Association are resolved.”
A spokesperson for the Department of the Interior, which operates the reserve, told Politico that the sale isn’t expected to “meaningfully change” helium availability. A spokesperson for the General Services Administration, which is overseeing the sale, said it’s a “congressionally mandated, competitive sale.”
The bidding opened last Thursday.