For me, the word natural has a laid-back, feel-good sound, as does the word gas in “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” [The Rolling Stones’ song’s] description of life after recovery from a near drowning and major head injury. He said, “It’s alright now... in fact it’s a gas.”
Put natural and gas together and you have a sunny, cheerful term — natural gas.
But it’s not alright... in fact it’s methane.
Fossil fuel corporations prefer the term natural gas. It works nicely for their spin doctors who have over the past 49 years been endangering life on the planet with disinformation about the disastrous effects of non-stop burning of coal, oil and gas.
Natural gas sounds so much better than methane. Look what my nosy imagination found crumpled up in the wastepaper basket of a fossil fuel ad writer: “Connect your home to methane today! Enjoy the benefits of this modern, safe, clean energy source. Cook like a gourmet on your methane stove, then cozy up with your loved ones in front of your methane fireplace.”
Smoothing out the creased paper, I see that the word methane has been crossed out with a red pencil crayon and the author has scribbled in capital letters, “methane sounds too dangerous.”
It is dangerous.
Methane is a potent greenhouse gas. Over a 20-year period, the global warming potential of methane is about 84 times that of carbon dioxide (CO2).
Methane leaks into the atmosphere at each step of the process that delivers it to a kitchen stove from a place deep in the Earth’s crust, where it has been doing no harm for many millions of years. There will be serious leakage when methane is released from the earth through drilling and fracking. There may be more leaks when it is piped to a refinery and from there to cities and dwellings. There will be leaks from home pipes and leaks from appliances.
Sure, burning methane produces less CO2 than coal, oil, or gasoline, but the CO2 that it does produce contributes to global warming. And when released directly into the atmosphere, methane becomes a greenhouse gas on steroids.
But common sense may prevail. Around the world, progressive governments at all levels are banning the use of oil or gas for home heating. For example, in Quebec, effective Dec. 31, new or replacement heating systems cannot be powered by fossil fuels.
By the way, the myth of gas being the choice of professional chefs has been thoroughly busted. Many have switched to induction stoves to get the same fast response to temperature adjustments without the... say it again, Jack... Gas, gas, gas!
Michael Obrecht is a resident of Wakefield.