Hooray for helium -- sorry we had to shutter all those national parks, however.
The act governs the Federal Helium Reserves, which contain roughly 11 billion cubic feet of helium, a stockpile the U.S. started back in the 1920s when blimps seemed like the future of transportation. Back then, the U.S. cornered the market; today the Reserves supply one-third of the world's supply of helium. And the government has turned this reserve into a lucrative business: It's used in a wide variety of applications today, including semiconductor manufacturing, fiber optics, the aerospace industry and MRI machines, NPR reported.
A shutdown of the Federal Helium Program would result in lost revenue to the U.S. Treasury averaging $430,000 a day, according to the U.S. Department of the Interior, which manages the Reserves in Amarillo, Tex. (Don't try reading about it on the DoI website, however, which is -- you guessed it -- temporarily closed for business.)
The 1996 law was set to expire on Oct. 1, the same day roughly 800,000 government employees were furloughed and national parks around the country closed. Had it expired, the government would no longer have been able to sell off those stockpiles.