WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 16: U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry speaks at the Energy Policy Summit at the National Press Club, October 16, 2017 in...
Drew Angerer

In the Trump administration, liquefied natural gas becomes ‘freedom gas’

The Trump administration has dabbled in Orwellian language from time to time, but the New York Times reports today on a rather dramatic new example.

According to the Department of Energy, the next critical export from the United States is made from “molecules of U.S. Freedom.”

You may wonder, what are these molecules?

The technical answer is liquefied natural gas. Or, if you are in charge of energy policy for the Trump administration, “freedom gas.”

The trouble started a few weeks ago, during an event in Brussels. Energy Secretary Rick Perry announced plans to double U.S. exports of liquefied natural gas to Europe, which the Texas Republican foolishly compared to U.S. efforts to liberate the continent during World War II.

“The United States is again delivering a form of freedom to the European continent,” Perry said.

With this in mind, a European reporter asked the American cabinet secretary whether the liquefied natural gas should be described as “freedom gas.” Perry replied, “I think you may be correct in your observation.”

For some, it was a lighthearted exchange. For Trump administration officials, it was a rebranding opportunity.

In fact, earlier this week, E&E News’ Ellen Gilmer flagged a press release from Perry’s Energy Department on a seemingly boring topic: the administration authorizing additional liquefied natural gas exports from the Freeport LNG Terminal in Texas. It included, however, an official quote from Under Secretary of Energy Mark W. Menezes:

“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.”

That’s right, “freedom gas.”

The same statement quoted Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy Steven Winberg saying, “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.”

Look, it’s entirely possible that some folks at the Department of Energy are having a little fun and they’re not serious about rebranding fossil fuels with silly references to “freedom.”

But in this administration, the lines between farce, accidental farce, and deliberate Orwellian schemes are often so blurred, it’s difficult to know what to think.