Helium as a Model for Phaseout Profit Theory

I just learned some very interesting facts about the helium market from this article at the New York Times. Thanks to this tweet by Dave Winer for the link.

The American government has stockpiled helium since 1960. It started selling off some of those stocks in the 1990s. And those sales will stop some time later this year, which means that 30% of the World market helium supply will disappear.

What might that mean for helium prices? Would one expect them to go up?

Of course. And they do.

So what is the lesson for oil?

Do exactly the same as with helium. Build stockpiles. Keep the oil in those stockpiles off the market.

That will lead to higher oil prices. That in turn means the oil in your stockpile will be worth more than at the time you bought it. Whoever runs such stockpiles will make a huge profit.

And, more importantly, it means the oil in those stockpiles won’t be burned. Oil that stays in a stockpile will not release any CO2.

Also, higher oil prices of course means that only really stupid people will continue to buy stinking gasoline cars. It will accelerate the transition to electricity on the road. Again, that will help a lot with getting global warming under control.

Of course the easiest way to run such a stockpile is to leave the oil in the ground in the first place. Just buy the oil field and refrain from taking the oil out for the next couple of decades.

Published by kflenz

Professor at Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo. Author of Lenz Blog (since 2003, lenzblog.com).

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