Trump’s Department of Energy renames natural gas as “freedom gas,” fossil fuels as “molecules of freedom”

June 3, 2019 • 1:15 pm

Under the Bush administration, when France refused to support the Iraq war, an incensed Republican congressman, Bob Ney, had the three House of Representative cafeterias rename their french fries as “Freedom Fries.” (“French toast” was also renamed “Freedom toast”.) He was serious, but most of us thought of it as both stupid and hilarious. Here’s a shot of the menu from back in 2003, and the name stayed for three years.

Now, however, the Trump administration is trying the euphemism trick again, but this time it’s worse, because it’s the initiative not of a single splenetic legislator, but of the Department of Energy (DOE) itself, as Forbes reports in the article below (click on screenshot):

This all comes from a DOE press release reporting an increase in natural gas exports, part of which I’ve put below:


What’s the harm? Not that much, I guess, especially because it makes the DOE look dumb, and it’s so transparently ridiculous. However, it could cause some ambiguity. The greater harm is the attempt to mask a lack of a serious energy policy addressing global warming by creating ludicrous euphemisms. But I do wonder why some chowderhead hit on these names, deciding to use the word “freedom”. Remember, too, that “freedom gas” is the major part of flatulence in both humans and, especially, cows.  Methane, the “freedom gas,” contributes about 25% of manmade global warming (carbon dioxide is most of the rest).

Not everyone is on board with this, of course. As Forbes reports,

The language has been met with widespread criticism, with Jay Inslee, the Governor of Washington running for the Democratic presidential nomination with an emphasis on climate change saying: “This has to be a joke.” In a later tweet he added: “I invite @SecretaryPerry and the Department of @Energy to come to Washington state to see our freedom panels and our freedom turbines.”

For further palliative, I recommend reading Orwell’s great essay “Politics and the English Language.”

h/t: Diana MacPherson

51 thoughts on “Trump’s Department of Energy renames natural gas as “freedom gas,” fossil fuels as “molecules of freedom”

  1. Since the Human Freedom Index lists the US as the “17th most free country”, it’s no surprise that the most we can contribute to world freedom is molecules (molecules that are free to pollute).

  2. … when France refused to support the Iraq war, an incensed Republican congressman, Bob Ney, had the three House of Representative cafeterias rename their french fries as “Freedom Fries.”

    I think that type of renaming dates back at least to World War One when sauerkraut was renamed “liberty cabbage” (which sounds like it could be the source of a whole nother variety of “freedom gas”).

    1. Until 1914 the British royal family were the Saxe-Coburg-Gothas, and Lord Mountbatten was Battenburg. Glad they decided not to rename the chake (sic).

  3. This is what happens when you put in charge of the Department of Energy (which is the minder of this nation’s nuclear arsenal) Governor Goodhair himself, Rick Perry, who’s always been a jockstrap for the “awl bidness” (as it’s known in Texas). Perry, you may recall, was the candidate for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination who said during a debate that he wanted to abolish the DoE, but who couldn’t recall the name of the agency he wanted to abolish. Oops!

    1. I’m watching the Chernobyl mini series. They put incompetent people in charge of their energy as well. There are striking parallels.

  4. I’m reminded of the paraphrase, “When the going gets tough, the tough change their labels.”

  5. Is ‘euphemism’ the correct term for substitutions like ‘Freedom fries’? The purpose seems not to mask the French connotation but rather to make a comment on France. It makes you think about about France even more.

  6. It is the same kind of sad thinking that tells the Navy to hide a ship so Trump won’t see the name. If they ever name one after Trump it should be a row boat with one oar in the water.

    1. I read about that. The USS John McCain. I didn’t think Trump could be that petty, but it goes to show you should never overestimate him.

      1. I can’t think of anything more obnoxious than Trump, unless it might be Jared Kurshner as Trump did not care for McCain because he was captured. A guy who faked injury and a full blow draft dodger but did not think much of a POW. Hell, I would impeach him for that alone.

      2. it’s so transparently ridiculous

        Yes, it was pretty funny, shades of Hank Hill calling butane a “bastard gas”. If you like your freedom gas you can keep your freedom gas.

        I didn’t think Trump could be that petty,

        Don’t worry, he wasn’t.

        1. Here’s the thing. I did not say that Trump specifically said to move the ship. But someone, knowing petty boy, said to do something. What is the difference? If you want to make excuses for the guy, well that will take a lot of that gas you mention.

          1. Or somebody floated the idea of not having the ship in the photo ops behind Trump so as to not detract from the business at hand – a diplomatic meeting with Japan. The media is all too eager to ignore what they should actually be reporting on if it can present a new “embarrassment” or “sick burn” about the president instead.

            In my opinion, the WH staffer responsible was more concerned about the pettiness of the media than Trump, and I think the countless hours they spent ruminating over this non-event is a pretty fair indication the staffer was right.

            1. Some day you will need to explain what world you actually live in. Is it called the Donald Trump apology tour…. Had any bone spurs lately? Maybe some heroes over there in the Nationalist party.

          2. I am surprised that people largely have accepted Trump’s denial of his involvement in the USS John S. McCain incident.

        2. Technically, Hank Hill never called butane a “bastard gas”. Bobby Hill said that his dad Hank said that. Second hand info lol

  7. Orwell : “If you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of orthodoxy.”

    I sometimes wonder about how movies and TV, having no requirement as to literacy, might serve as an surrogate for literacy – and, if so, what pathologies can arise for instance when people decide on political candidates.

  8. I have two thoughts, both rather silly.
    First- good on Inslee for getting his name out there.
    Second – sometime after the original ‘freedom fry’ flap, I found myself referring to tater-tots as ‘Fiesta Tots’. I don’t know why, but it stuck.

  9. Isn’t a “trump” a fart in old English? So, now we have president “freedom gas”. Sounds melodious.

    Now I’m going to read that Orwell.

    1. Get your copy before it’s on the Homeland Security “Do Not Buy” list.

      Don’t use a credit card.

  10. Fricken unbelievable.

    “Molecules of US freedom” – what the hell?

    (Engage snark mode, because I can’t resist):
    Don’t export too many, you haven’t got much to spare.
    Nobody else wants ’em anyway, they’re too tainted.
    What, like you exported them to Iraq?
    Are these US molecules compatible with metric equipment?
    (Crank down the snark level)

    What an utterly ludicrous phrasing. Everything is molecules (except, possibly, abstract properties like ‘freedom’). But you don’t normally speak of exporting ‘molecules of’ anything. It’s a ludicrous a phrase as would be Amazon selling ‘words’.

    “I’ll have 10^25 molecules of Coke, please, and 10^27 molecules of unleaded.”

    I won’t even start on the bullshit of calling anything that releases CO2 into the atmosphere ‘clean’ energy.


    1. On reflection, it actually offends me.

      It offends me that they think anybody reading it could be so terminally dumb as not to instantly burst out laughing at their idiocy.

      It suggests that either they just couldn’t be arsed to come up with a slightly less ridiculous name (in which case they’re too lazy to have their jobs), or that they actually don’t realise how risible and tendentious those phrases are (in which case they’re too clueless to have their jobs).

      Some things are just so stupid they make me angry.


      1. Funny enough, as I’m reading this, there is an episode of Star Trek TNG playing where the dumb guys abduct Geordi (Samaritan Snare). It’s making me think about the dumb people who would think “they are smart; we are not strong”.

      2. or that they actually don’t realise how risible and tendentious those phrases are (in which case they’re too clueless to have their jobs).

        An imprecation which I haven’t used for some time is to suggest that they have IQ’s lower than their shoe sizes. Which works sufficiently well, whichever side of the Pond or Channel your target is thinking of.

      1. Damn, factor of ten out. Possibly I also just drowned in Coke 8-(

        But I think that highlights the silliness of talking about ‘molecules’ in this contact. The DoE can anything it likes with a few molecules of anything – molecules of sarin gas if it likes. I would volunteer to breathe 100 molecules of Sarin, or chlorine trifluoride; it would have no detectable effect on me, though one bacteria might suffer.

        It’s only when talking about a septillion molecules (or that order of stuff) that there is any practical meaning.


  11. Probably of relevance: Natural gas reserves:

    Russia 35 tcm
    Iran 33.2 tcm
    USA 8.7 tcm

    So this means that Russia and Iran both have FOUR TIMES MORE FREEDOM GAS THAN THE USA.

    I get the impression someone’s taking a knife to a gunfight…


  12. What’s even funnier than the nomenclature is the fact that natural gas exploration and fracking were sold to the public as enabling US energy independence…and now we’re exporting most of it.

    1. Actually, I don’t know how much of the US shale-gas/oil production is exported, but I’d strongly doubt that it’s “most” of it. It’s certainly not zero (a non-fracking project I was trying to get going was bowdlerised by imports from America, scuppering our byline in re-processing industrial waste). But the proportion is a very different question.
      The reduction of crude imports by America has had a big knock-on effect around the rest of the world, though a lot of that slack has been taken up by Chinese growth. And America is trying to export it’s dirty (high sulphur, high mercury) coal around the world now that they struggle to sell it at home. Big changes in the energy market, but I still doubt that America is exporting more than a small proportion of it’s fracked production. Or it’s non-fracked production – remembering that for decades the contiguous US was the 3rd largest producing area in the world behind Russia and the Saudis ; it just didn’t export more than a tiny proportion of it’s production.
      For bulk commodities, distance to market really counts, because transport is far from free.
      Why do I suspect that the fact-free publicity machine of USian politics is producing a line of BS that is seeping into public perceptions. As is intended.

  13. Remember the days when the U.S. Secretary of Energy was a physics professor with a Nobel Prize?

  14. B

    ob Ney, had the three House of Representative cafeterias rename their french fries as “Freedom Fries.”

    Was that about the time that the French were re-branded as fromage-eating freedom monkeys?

  15. I actually found the naming chilling because the government was serious about it. It was so Orwellian and that essay Jerry links to is a good one; I studied it many times in English classes in high school.

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