"Here's Something Congress Can Agree On: Helium"

"With the government on the brink of a shutdown, Republicans and Democrats in Congress have come together to compromise on helium. Legislation passed late last week will keep the gas used in party balloons flowing from a national reserve."

"The helium bill's passage shows that compromise is still possible in the fractious political climate. But finding agreement over this inert gas was tough. The new law came after more than a year of intensive lobbying by some of America's largest businesses and academic institutions.

The U.S. government began stockpiling helium in the 1920s, back when blimps were a weapon of war. Today contains roughly 11 billion cubic feet of helium. The government has turned this helium into a lucrative business, selling it to scientists and private companies. It's used in a wide variety of applications, including semiconductor manufacturing, fiber optics, the aerospace industry and MRI machines."

Geoff Brumfiel reports for NPR's All Things Considered September 30, 2013.

Source: NPR, 10/01/2013