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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

1 hour ago - Health

U.S. ahead of pace on vaccines

A health care worker administers a dose of the Moderna vaccine in Ruleville, Mississippi. Photo: Rory Doyle/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The U.S. is now vaccinating an average of 2 million people a day, up from 1.3 million in early February.

Why it matters: That puts us on track to hit President Biden's goal of 100 million doses a month ahead of schedule.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Harris breaks tie as Senate proceeds with lengthy debate on COVID relief bill

Photo: Oliver Contreras/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Senate on Thursday voted 51-50 — with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the tie — to proceed to debate on President Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue package, likely setting up a final vote this weekend.

The state of play: Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) is forcing the Senate clerk to read the entire 628-page bill on the floor, a procedural move that will likely add 10 hours to the 20 hours already allotted for debate.

4 hours ago - World

Netanyahu campaigns against Biden's plan to save Iran deal

Netanyahu campaigns at a gym last month. Photo: Pool/AFP via Getty

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu indirectly criticized the Biden administration for its intention to return to the Iran nuclear deal and told his supporters he was prepared to "stand against the entire world" to stop it.

Why it matters: This is a major change of tune for Netanyahu, who had been careful in his statements on the Iran deal and avoided publicly criticizing President Biden. The statement was part of Netanyahu's attempt to rally his base ahead of Israel's election on March 23.

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