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The 40-year supply is only the US Helium Reserve, which was started back during the world wars because we thought there was a strategic advantage to having a stockpile of helium. When we realized this was nonsensical, the government started selling off the supply, which causes the dips in cost due to a saturated market.Credit: Sydien @ Reddit
We can refine plenty of helium from natural gas, and helium is being constantly produced by decaying radioactive elements such as thorium. Further, even if we exhausted all of the helium on the planet, we could still make it synthetically. But still:In 1996, the U.S. had proven helium reserves, in such gas well complexes, of about 147 billion standard cubic feet (4.2 billion SCM). At rates of use at that time (72 million SCM per year in the U.S.) this is enough helium for about 58 years of U.S. use, and less than this (perhaps 80% of the time) at world use rates, although factors in saving and processing impact effective reserve numbers. It is estimated that the resource base for yet-unproven helium in natural gas in the U.S. is 31–53 trillion SCM, about 1000 times the proven reserves.So even though consumption rates have gone up, by those figures and at the standard consumption rate, there is enough helium on earth to last us 45,000 years. The price of helium will go up and the market will stabilize, but we're certainly not running out of it.
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