Let’s Call it ‘Miracle Gas’

I’ll admit that when I heard U.S. official call natural gas exports ‘molecules of freedom,” I thought it was pretty stupid. But a little research shows that the fuel has inspired people for millennia.

There is something in the air these days in Washington: methane with a smattering of higher alkanes and perhaps a little hydrogen sulfide.
Booming U.S. natural-gas production has put a swagger in the step of government officials now that the fuel is being exported around the world in liquefied form. Some see it as a political lever for democracy as much as an economic boon. The U.S. undersecretary of energy sparked much hilarity this week when he referred to the fuel as “freedom gas”—a moniker that reminded many of Iraq war era “freedom fries.”

But natural gas, once called “fossil gas,” was inspiring people way before the fracking boom. Historians surmise that a lightning strike on Mount Parnassus, where it may have seeped from the ground, created the flame that inspired the Oracle of Delphi. Some attribute the burning bush that Moses encountered in the wilderness to a similar phenomenon and also pillars of fire that played a role in Persia’s ancient religion.

Millennia later, then, why shouldn’t the miraculous boom in U.S. gas output, with all its ramifications, inspire some flowery language? 5/20/2019

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