With a 97-2 vote, the Senate this afternoon has given overwhelming bipartisan support to legislation that would extend the life of the Federal Helium Reserve – the single largest source of helium in the nation and the source for 30 percent of the world’s total supply. Right now, the clock is ticking on the thousands of American jobs that are associated with access to the helium reserve. Current law requires the reserve to close on October 7. The Senate’s action provides renewed hope to keeping the reserve open and people in their jobs.
As we’ve noted regularly, helium is a critical building block not only for tech products, but also for a range of products across the economy. From transportation to energy to health care, helium -- because of its unique properties -- plays an indispensable role in product manufacturing and usage. Without it, entire industries could be in jeopardy.
For example, the semiconductor industry is enormously reliant on helium to build its products. And because of the access to the U.S. supply being so globally dominant, the semiconductor industry has remained anchored in the U.S. and is one of our country’s biggest exports. The industry employs almost 250,000 Americans with wages that average more than $120,000 a year, and the Semiconductor Industry Association estimates that the industry supports more than a million additional jobs across the country.
But without continued access to the Federal Helium Reserve for supply of the gas, many of those jobs could be at risk.
The legislation that passed the Senate today would ensure that the federal government has authority to continue selling helium to the private sector through a new auction process that will maximize the value of this important government asset, and provide a better financial return to the U.S. Treasury than would a straight extension of the current program. Sales of helium would help to reduce the federal deficit while keeping Americans on the job. Last, but not least, it provides a glide path to wind down a government program, and gets the federal government out of the helium business. It’s a win-win for the country and for the economy.
We urge the House to take up and pass this legislation and get it to the president quickly. The clock is ticking to ensure a steady supply of helium, support hundreds of thousands of American jobs, and provide hundreds of millions of dollars for the U.S. Treasury through continued helium sales.