Moneybox

The Department of Energy Is Now Calling Fossil Fuels “Molecules of Freedom” and “Freedom Gas”

A natural gas flare
From now on this is known as a “freedom flame.” (It’s actually a natural gas flare in New Mexico.)
Nick Oxford/Reuters

The Trump administration loves fossil fuels, but apparently has decided that they need some rebranding. Or so E&E News editor Ellen Gilmer discovered Tuesday when she opened up what should have been the world’s driest press release.

That’s right. Hydrocarbons shall henceforth be known as “molecules of U.S. freedom.” Proud Americans are fracking compounds of liberty from the glorious shale beds of Texas and shipping it ‘round the world.

Anyway, it gets better. The actual news here is that the Department of Energy gave Houston-based Freeport LNG approval to export gas processed at a new liquefaction plant that the company is set to build at a facility off the coast of Texas. Elsewhere in the government’s press release, U.S. Undersecretary of Energy Mark W. Menezes explains, “Increasing export capacity from the Freeport LNG project is critical to spreading freedom gas throughout the world by giving America’s allies a diverse and affordable source of clean energy.” (Bolds are mine.)

Freedom gas. It appears that turn of phrase originated earlier this month, when Secretary of Energy Rick Perry signed an order aimed at doubling U.S. liquefied natural gas shipments to Europe. At a press briefing in Brussels, he explained that the move would help European nations diversify their energy supply away from Russia, the region’s major supplier of gas. “The United States is again delivering a form of freedom to the European continent,” he said. “And rather than in the form of young American soldiers, it’s in the form of liquefied natural gas.” Afterward, a cheeky reporter from EURACTIV asked whether “freedom gas” would be a correct way to describe the new fuel shipments. “I think you may be correct in your observation,” an apparently inspired Perry responded.

And now it’s the Trump administration’s official line. As one of my colleagues put it, spreading freedom gas sounds like what happens when you’re newly single and suddenly have the apartment to yourself. Which raises the question: Did the Department of Energy mean to make a fart joke in an official statement? Or are we just lucky? The world may never know.

This post has been updated with additional context about Perry’s remarks.