On Tuesday, the Department of Energy (DoE) published a news release promoting their approval of increased exports of natural gas from a new Freeport LNG liquefaction plant that will be built off the coast of Texas, on Quintana Island.
In the release, Mark W Menezes, the U.S. Under Secretary of Energy, referred to the fossil fuel as “freedom gas,” saying:
“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.”
There is so much wrong with this that it’s hard to even know where to start.
First of all, natural gas isn’t “clean energy.” Natural gas is a fossil fuel that is extracted from the Earth and burned. In fact, according to DeSmog:
“Last year America’s carbon emissions rose over 3 percent, despite coal plants closing and being replaced in part by natural gas, the much-touted “bridge fuel” and “cleaner” fossil fuel alternative.
As a new series from the sustainability think tank the Sightline Institute points out, the idea of natural gas as a bridge fuel is ‘alarmingly deceptive‘.“
It also remains to be seen how a fossil fuel has anything to do with freedom. If anything, being so closely tied to an undeniable need for fossil fuels is restrictive, not freeing. Modern societies are so bound to fossil fuels that, if they were to suddenly vanish, virtually everything we do would come to a screeching halt and thrust us into chaos. Nothing about that really screams freedom.
There’s also the simple fact that the Trump administration just reduced natural gas—the hydrocarbon gas mixture that consists primarily of methane—to “freedom gas.”
Whether or not Menezes or other members of the Trump administration intended this news release, and the included laughable new terminology to be humorous, remains to be seen.
The bizarre statements about natural gas exports don’t stop at Menezes. According to EURACTV, in early May, Energy Secretary Rick Perry told reporters in Brussels:
“Seventy-five years after liberating Europe from Nazi Germany occupation, the United States is again delivering a form of freedom to the European continent. And rather than in the form of young American soldiers, it’s in the form of liquefied natural gas.”
And in January 2018, Perry told Fox Business that exporting natural gas was a “priceless” kind of freedom for U.S. allies.
This has to be a joke. (Remember freedom fries?) https://t.co/ei9Idg613X
— Jay Inslee (@JayInslee) May 29, 2019
While commentary on the language used in the release spread on the internet like wildfire, it overshadowed the content and purpose of the announcement.
Texas accounted for 23% of natural gas produced in 2017, as the top natural gas-producing state in the country. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, production of natural gas in the United States has increased dramatically since 2005, after the introduction of hydraulic fracturing (fracking).
According to Greenpeace:
“In order to frack, an enormous amount of water is mixed with various toxic chemical compounds to create frack fluid. This frack fluid is further contaminated by the heavy metals and radioactive elements that exist naturally in the shale. A significant portion of the frack fluid returns to the surface, where it can spill or be dumped into rivers and streams. Underground water supplies can also be contaminated by fracking, through migration of gas and frack fluid underground.”
An increase in earthquakes in areas not previously prone to them, flammable water, and negative health effects have all been blamed on fracking.
Americans are left wondering if, after writing the release, Menezes hopped into his freedom gas guzzling vehicle to burn some molecules of U.S. freedom on his way to the nearest drive-thru for a fresh pack of freedom fries to share with Perry, and if we’re supposed to feel more free as we continue to deal with the less than humorous consequences of natural gas fracking.