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Energy Secretary Rick Perry at a press conference about liquefied natural gas. Photo: Thierry Monasse/Getty Images

The Department of Energy uncorked a memorable phrase yesterday when it approved expanded shipments from the Freeport LNG site in Texas. Here's Under Secretary of Energy Mark W. Menezes yesterday in DOE's greatest press release ever:

"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."

Another DOE official touted "molecules of U.S. freedom to be exported to the world."

The fallout: The phrasing got a ton of coverage and produced some fun writing, like this from Slate's Jordan Weissmann:

"As one of my colleagues put it, spreading freedom gas sounds like what happens when you’re newly single and suddenly have the apartment to yourself."

Why it matters: The DOE's release is really about an idea that underlies President Trump's energy policy and also animated President Obama's (albeit with less aggressive phrasing) — using the U.S. oil-and-gas boom to provide geopolitical leverage.

  • This takes multiple forms, like providing the oil markets more slack to absorb the loss of Iranian barrels to sanctions.
  • And when it comes to that freedom gas, officials often cite the idea that expanded U.S. LNG shipments to Europe act as a check against Russia, the continents's dominant supplier.
  • As the Washington Post notes, Energy Secretary Rick Perry has previously touted the idea of "exporting freedom" to describe U.S. gas.

The intrigue: The influence of U.S. gas in Europe is complicated. LNG volumes shipped there, while growing, are small compared to Russian supplies.

  • However, the idea that U.S. exports create political and market leverage for allies is hardly crazy.
  • Even if volumes are modest or not as cheap, alternative supply options give European nations leverage to strengthen their hand in negotiations with Russia's Gazprom.

On the record: I chatted with energy and geopolitics expert Nikos Tsafos of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, who offers a dose of skepticism.

  • "Freedom gas implies some political side effects — the idea that by relying on Russian gas, a country is somehow political subservient to Russia too. That’s the entire theory of it all. So once Lithuania or Poland get non-Russian gas, their *political* freedom to maneuver, their national security, their strategic posture will be enhanced," he said via email.
  • "This is mostly a hypothesis, not a proven fact, and yet it is generally treated as a real fact, which leads people to rhapsodize about the political benefits of U.S. LNG. It would be helpful if these grand statements on the geopolitical benefits of U.S. LNG were subjected to empirical tests."

Go deeper: Trump seeks to flex America’s energy muscles abroad

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
36 mins ago - Energy & Environment

IEA analysis charts "narrow" pathway to Paris climate goal

Photovoltaic solar panels at the power plant in La Colle des Mees, Alpes de Haute Provence, southeastern France. Photo: Gerard Julien/AFP via Getty Images

The pathway for transforming global energy systems to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 is "narrow but still achievable" and demands unprecedented acceleration away from fossil fuels, an International Energy Agency report published Tuesday concludes.

Why it matters: It provides detailed analysis and estimates of what's needed for a good shot at limiting temperature rise to 1.5°C above preindustrial levels — the Paris Agreement benchmark for avoiding some of the most damaging effects of climate change.

2 hours ago - World

In photos: Deadly Cyclone Tauktae leaves trail of destruction across India

A police officer helps a public transport driver cross a flooded street due to heavy rain caused by Tropical Cyclone Tauktae in Mumbai, India, on May 17. Photo: Ashish Vaishnav/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Tropical Cyclone Tauktae killed at least 16 people in India after making landfall in Gujarat Monday, packing 100mph winds, and sweeping across Kerala, Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra, per Reuters.

The big picture: The storm unleashed heavy rains and winds as authorities continued to grapple with surging infection rates and deaths from COVID-19. Over 200,000 people were evacuated from Gujarat, and ports, airports and vaccination centers shut in the state and Mumbai, Reuters reports. Tauktae weakened from a Category 3 storm into a "severe cyclonic storm" Tuesday morning local time.

5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Yellen wants business to help foot infrastructure bill

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is heading into the belly of the beast Tuesday and asking the business community to support President Biden's $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan during a speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Why it matters: By trying to persuade a skeptical and targeted audience, Yellen is signaling the president’s commitment to raising corporate taxes to pay for his plan. Republican senators, critical to a potential bipartisan deal, oppose any corporate tax increase.

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