On Tuesday, the outlet reported that a huge production facility in Siberia was nearing completion and would soon begin producing vast quantities of the gas for export. Helium has a range of industrial applications, from super-cooling machinery to powering rocket engines. At present, the US and Qatar dominate the field, but that may all change as Russia’s own plant gets off the ground.
Russia is expected to produce 25 to 30 percent of the world’s helium supplies, once activity at the plant, near the town of Svobodny, pumps up its output.
However, the NYT claimed that a new global helium producer had inflated the risks to the world economy. Citing market specialist Michael Dall, it said that while, initially, more supply could lower prices, in the longer term, “the dynamics could become more political, something similar to OPEC,” which sets oil prices by raising or lowering the production output.
“The geopolitical risks of threats to supply, and potential supply outages, will rise,” Dall added. “And the way demand is going, helium is going to be highly sought after.”
The US is so wary of being at the mercy of the global helium supply chain that it maintains a National Helium Reserve in Texas, where over a billion cubic meters of the gas is stored. Built in the 1920s, it had originally been intended to power airships, but found a role in industry and space technology during the Cold War.
In November, a job advert posted for a Russia correspondent at the NYT said the newspaper wanted a writer fascinated by how Russia “sends out hit squads armed with nerve agents against its enemies,” and “has its cyber agents sow chaos and disharmony in the West to tarnish its democratic systems, while promoting its faux version of democracy.”
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called the advert “Russophobic,” and questioned whether, if the country is as bad as it claimed, the NYT had “the right to risk the life of a correspondent by sending them to work in such inhuman conditions.”
The NYT has long been critical of Russia – and it would appear its latest warnings over helium don’t represent any change in its tone.
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