“Freedom Gas” is a new phrase coined by the Department of Energy (DOE) that refers to natural gas exports from the United States to Europe. The term was discovered in a recent press release announcing that the DOE 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 in Quintana Island, Texas.
In the press release that was posted Tuesday, U.S. Under Secretary of Energy Mark W. Menezes explained that “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. Further, more exports of U.S. LNG to the world means more U.S. jobs and more domestic economic growth and cleaner air here at home and around the globe,”
Also in the DOE press release, Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy Steven Winberg, who signed the export order, added another new term for natural gas exports “With the U.S. in another year of record-setting natural gas production, 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,”
This press release is the first time “Freedom gas” or “molecules of U.S. Freedom” have been used to describe natural gas exports by the DOE.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Term Was Coined by a Reporter from EURACTIV
While this press release is the first time many of us are hearing the term “freedom gas” the credit for coining the term goes a reporter from EURACTIV. Earlier this month, Rick Perry signed an order that effectively doubled U.S. liquefied natural gas shipments to Europe.
During the press conference in Brussels to announce the deal, Perry announced “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.”
A reported from EURACTIV jokingly asked if “freedom gas” would be the right way to label the new shipments to which Perry responded, “I think you may be correct in your observation.” That interaction led to the DOE adopting the term in their rebrand of natural gas.
2. “Freedom Gas” Is Trying to Disrupt Russia’s Nordstream 2 Pipeline
While “freedom gas” may seem like a term designed to paint fossil fuels in a more favorable light, it has a deeper meaning.
The U.S. is trying to reduce European dependency on Russian natural gas and eventually dominate the natural gas market. The “freedom gas” may be the U.S. response to the Nordstream 2 pipeline that is designed to bring Russian gas directly to Germany via the Baltic Sea, rather than through traditional “transit countries” like Ukraine. Transit countries receive money for letting pipelines pass through their borders so the Nordstream 2 will cause a big loss in revenue for those countries. It also comes with security concerns after Russia cut off natural gas from Ukraine during a dispute in 2006.
U.S. exports of natural gas make up a tiny fraction of Europe’s natural gas but exports have been increasing at a staggering pace. LNG exported 13 million cubic feet of natural to European countries in 2018, over 13 times what exports were in 2016. Even with the sharp increase, the U.S. will need to produce significantly more if it hopes to compete with Russia in Europe.
3. The New Term Was Discovered by E&E News Editor Ellen Grimer
Ellen Grimer was the first person to break the story on “freedom gas” which was overlooked by most reporters in an otherwise dry press release. Ellen covers environmental issues for eenews.net and has reported extensively on the dangers of natural gas and fracking along with other environmental issues.
4. Many People Thought It Was an Article from the Onion
After the “freedom gas” started gaining traction on social media, many users thought it was the work of satirical news website “The Onion”. The headline seems to be ripped directly from an article that would be featured on their website.
Many also pointed out that the language is eerily similar to the “doublespeak” used by BIG BROTHER in George Orwell’s novel 1984.
Other Twitter users avoided politics altogether and took the opportunity to post memes and other content mocking the newly coined term.
The general reaction has been one of collective disbelief. Most people were unsure if the news was legitimate until reading the press release on the DOE website.
5. “Freedom Gas” Is a Result of the Fracking Boom
Since the Trump Administration rolled back regulations on fracking and auctioned off millions of acres of drilling rights, exports of natural gas have skyrocketed. US firms like Freeport LNG have capitalized on the opportunity due to high demand from countries throughout Central and South America, Asia, and Europe.
Natural gas is also known as “bridge fuel” and is a solution to wean us off more harmful, carbon-intensive sources of energy. While it’s not exactly “clean” energy, when burned as fuel it sends about half the amount of carbon into the atmosphere as coal. However, hydraulic fracking can cause leaks. A study published last year shows that 2.3% of all “freedom gas” is leaked into the atmosphere. When natural gas is leaked into the atmosphere, it’s 34 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas.