Physical Insights

An independent scientist’s observations on society, technology, energy, science and the environment. “Modern science has been a voyage into the unknown, with a lesson in humility waiting at every stop. Many passengers would rather have stayed home.” – Carl Sagan

Natural gas

with 3 comments

Have you ever wondered they call it natural gas, anyway? Is it anything more than an attempt to invoke association between the word natural and a “clean and green”, ”good” source of energy? We don’t refer to natural coal or natural oil, do we? How about natural uranium? Well, granted, the latter term is not uncommon, in a different context.

Can you imagine the outcry if the energy industry started marketing their energy systems as natural oil, or natural coal? It would be derided as a misleading stunt by the energy companies (not to mention the Amory Lovins brigade), to give their environmentally dangerous fuels a clean image!

Just to make it really clear to everyone what it really is, perhaps we should refer to it as fossil gas?


Written by Luke Weston

April 2, 2008 at 9:01 am

3 Responses

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  1. It’s called “natural gas,” because originally it was an alternative to “town gas,” which was made from coal.

    So, unlike town gas, which had to be manufactured, the “natural” alternative came out of the ground ready to be used after some of the less-desirable components had been removed.

    Nevertheless, what began as a means to distinguish the fuel from its traditional competitor has some very attractive and useful branding advantages today. Natural gas sounds so much nicer than coal and oil.


    April 2, 2008 at 10:31 am

  2. I quite like “fossil gas” as an alternative term. Also “methane” sounds fairly benign, but how about “carbon tetrahydride”? (No, I really don’t want to reinvent organic chemistry naming conventions).


    April 2, 2008 at 1:34 pm

  3. One would think the only gas that would qualify as natural would be flatulence.


    April 3, 2008 at 2:40 pm

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