THERE IS another current misimpression going about as to limiting exports of helium. The law governing the export of helium provides that the Government may issue licenses for export purposes.
The helium in the country is produced by private companies and by the Government. For the last 2 years private companies have not only been given every license or permit for export of every ounce of helium they could sell, but they have been urged to develop a foreign market. The Government has a helium plant in certain gas areas where it supplies itself, and that plant having been brought up to full development about 18 months or 2 years ago, the private companies were free for export business. They have not been able to obtain foreign orders to any very great consequence. As a matter of practical fact, helium costs about four times as much as hydrogen. It has somewhat less lifting power, estimated about 10 percent, and it is not available except from the western part of the United States, where hydrogen can be made on the spot wherever the balloon happens to be. In other words, there is no service station for helium all over the world.
So that is an entirely mistaken notion that the United States is preventing the use of helium in the development of lighter-than-air navigation. The private companies in the United States would be delighted to have the job of supplying helium. And as I have said, we have not only given every export permit they have applied for, but have even urged them to get into the foreign business.