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U.S. Natural Gas Is Now “Freedom Gas" for Some Dumb Reason

by Alex Lubben
May 29 2019, 8:48pm

The U.S. is gearing up to export more freedom, in the form of gas.

In an announcement Tuesday, the Department of Energy said it would allow extra exports of U.S.-produced natural gas, ahem, “freedom gas,” from an expanded natural gas production facility in Texas. “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,” U.S. under secretary of energy Mark Menezes said in the press release.

They went a step further. It’s not just freedom gas, but the very molecules of natural gas are made up of American freedom, which is…a fossil fuel?

“I am pleased that the Department of Energy is doing what it can to promote an efficient regulatory system that allows for molecules of U.S. freedom to be exported to the world,” said Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy Steve Winberg.

It’s not the first time the Energy Department has compared natural gas to freedom. During a press conference in Brussels earlier this month, Energy Secretary Rick Perry told reporters, “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.”

A Euractiv reporter asked Perry if he was essentially describing “freedom gas.” Perry said, “Yes, I think you may be correct in your observation.”

The DOE’s announcement comes as U.S. exports of natural gas have gone through the roof, thanks to the fracking boom of the past several years. Domestic production of the fuel — which, though less carbon-intensive than coal, is nonetheless a fossil fuel — has spiked, and demand is strong in countries throughout Central and South America, Asia, and Europe.

When it’s not being called “freedom fuel,” natural gas is often referred to as a “bridge fuel,” one intented to wean us off more carbon-intensive source of energy and lower carbon emissions. When burned as fuel, natural gas sends about half as much carbon into the atmosphere as coal.

But hydraulic fracturing, aka fracking, can be leaky. A study published last year estimates that 2.3 percent of all “freedom gas” is leaked into the atmosphere before it has a chance to be burned as fuel, which, while a small percentage of the total, amounts to enough gas to fuel 10 million homes.

And natural gas, released directly into the atmosphere as a compound colloquially referred to as “freedom methane,” is 34 times as potent a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide. And the Trump administration has eased regulations on methane leaks from oil and gas operations on public lands.

Cover: Freeport LNG Development, L.P. is currently undergoing construction of a liquefied natural gas receiving terminal in Freeport, Texas on Wednesday Nov. 30, 2005. A large number of the workers are needed to set tie rods that each have to be hand-tied. (AP Photo/Jessica Kourkounis)