Trump administration’s ‘molecules of U.S. freedom’ come with a cost

Source: By Dino Grandoni, Washington Post • Posted: Friday, May 31, 2019

President Donald Trump speaking at a liquified natural gas terminal in Hackberry, La. last month. (Scott Clause/The Daily Advertiser via AP)

“Molecules of U.S. freedom.” “Freedom gas.”

That’s the latest way the Trump administration has decided to describe fuel that oil and gas companies are selling abroad.

Both of those turns of phrase showed up Wednesday in an Energy Department news release containing an otherwise humdrum announcement that the department is approving additional exports of natural gas from a terminal in Texas.

In a statement, Mark W. Menezes, the undersecretary of energy, celebrated the United States for “spreading freedom gas throughout the world.” Steven Winberg, assistant secretary for fossil energy, added in his own statement,”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.”

Trump critics quickly latched onto the phrasing for ignoring a flip side to “freedom gas”: its contributions to global warming. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), who is running for president on a platform focused on climate change, called the statements a “joke.”

This has to be a joke. (Remember freedom fries?)

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Jay Inslee


Freedom gas? Freedom is generally good, but freedom from glaciers, freedom from clean air, freedom from healthy forests that aren’t on fire, and freedom from the world we know and cherish is not what we seek.

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Others, such as journalists Gilad Edelman and Ryan Teague Beckwith, said headlines about the news release might as well have come from the satirical newspaper the Onion.

Gilad Edelman@GiladEdelman

I thought “The Department of Energy Is Now Calling Fossil Fuels ‘Molecules of Freedom’ and ‘Freedom Gas'” was an obvious attempt by @JHWeissmann at Onion-style parody. But no. 

The Department of Energy Is Now Calling Fossil Fuels “Molecules of Freedom” and “Freedom Gas”

Freedom gas!

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ryan teague beckwith


This isn’t even “Not the Onion” territory. It’s more like “Not Borowitz report.” 

The Department of Energy Is Now Calling Fossil Fuels “Molecules of Freedom” and “Freedom Gas”

Freedom gas!

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Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, was in a less jovial mood, citing the release as another example of the executive branch reaching “Orwellian new heights in its propaganda” in a statement.

The choice of words is the latest linguistic flourish from an administration promoting an “energy dominance” agenda — that is, one in which the United States focuses on expanding all forms of energy production, including fossils fuels, in an effort to make the country a net energy exporter.

The news release is also the latest effort by the Trump administration to highlight one facet of that agenda — its expansion of the number of gas export terminals on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

This month, President Trump flew to Louisiana to christen a newly constructed portion of a liquefied natural gas export terminal there. An additional three terminals are under construction nationwide to help bring the recent boom of fracked gas to international buyers in South America, Europe and Asia.

But during his speech Trump went off-topic, mocking Democrats such as Pete Buttigieg (‘Boot-edge-edge”), Elizabeth Warren (“Pocahontas”) and Bernie Sanders (“crazy”) each seeking to unseat him from the White House in 2020.

Still, Jason Bordoff, founding director of Columbia University’s Center for Global Energy Policy, told The Washington Post’s Steven Mufson there is a “kernel of truth” to the White House rhetoric because U.S. gas provides an alternative to energy from Russia, which has used its trade relations as a cudgel against regional rivals such as Ukraine by cutting off its energy supply.

But Bordoff added: “I worry about the extent to which rhetoric like this risks politicizing a commodity whose very benefits derive from the fact that it is market-driven.”