Two In One Day
The gyst of the story is this... Helium is mined from just a small handful of pockets trapped under ground. Despite our fascination with frittering it away in party decorations and the most transient of childrens toys, helium is in fact a depleting resource. It is so rare and expensive in other parts of the world that in scientific research or medical diagnostics it's cheaper to bring the patient or sample to the US then it is to carry out facilities in Europe or Asia. There is no NMR Spectroscopy in Europe, at least not the way it is here. In research we use it to super cool certain items, an NMR magnet, a radio reciever for astronomy or microwave communications (it improves signal to noise ratios for very faint signals).
Why is helium so rare? It's so light and bouyant in the Earths atmosphere that it will eventually float off into space. Once it gets released into the air it's effectively gone. Trapped helium in deep helium wells are the only source.
Enjoy your balloons while you can. Eventually they'll be nothing more then a memory. OK maybe we'll use hydrogen. Damn won't that be fun.
Personally I think the way the scientific community deals with the depletion of the helium stock will be a pretty good meter for how the rest of the world will deal with 'Peak Oil'.