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Senate pulls back from helium cliff

If you remember my column from Aug. 25, the United States controls much of the world’s helium supply, and was about to force itself to shut off the spigot due to a well-intentioned but potentially- disastrous 1996 law. The good news is that on Thursday the U.S. Senate, in a rare bit of bipartisanship, overwhelmingly approved legislation to keep the world’s helium flowing and the balloons — and semiconductors, and a surprisingly wide spectrum of industries — afloat.

The Senate passed the High Technology Jobs Preservation Act (which I suppose is better than the Hurriedly Correcting Our Enormous Blunder Act) by a vote of 97 to 2.

“Senate passage of this legislation represents important progress toward addressing the looming global helium shortage, which threatens to harm many industrial and scientific users of helium and undermine critical manufacturing, health care, and research operations across the U.S.,” said Brian Toohey, president and CEO, Semiconductor Industry Association.

Of course we’re not out of the woods yet. The House and Senate bills have to be reconciled. But hey, we still have until Oct. 8 until helium disaster, and progress is being made.