(AP) Party decorators still use helium-filled balloons, but not as many. And now, in the busiest season of the year, they're having to get creative to offer clients New Year's Eve centerpieces and balloon sculptures they can afford.
Hans Stuart, spokesman for Bureau of Land Management, the shortage isn't going to get better for next New Year's Eve, or any time soon. The bureau oversees the Federal Helium Reserve near Amarillo, Texas.
The reserve supplies nearly half of U.S. helium needs and a third of the world's helium is extracted from the reserve and then refined by private plants, but there aren't enough refineries to keep up.
Ones that were to come online in Qatar and Algeria still aren't in full production. As a result, helium's becoming rare and prices are rising. Shortages of helium started cropping up more than a year ago.