'Fossil Gas': Climate Activists Press Biden To Stop Companies From Calling Gas 'Natural'

Natural gas occurs naturally underground

The BASF plant stands at sunset on November 01, 2022 in Schwarzheide, Germany. The plant, which makes chemical products, relies on natural gas for its heating and dehydration processes. The German government is seeking measures to ease the burden of skyrocketing natural gas prices for both manufacturers and households. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
April 26, 2023

Climate activists are pushing the Biden administration to stop companies from using the term "natural gas," arguing that use of the word "natural" makes the energy source appear overly green.

Environmental group Gas Leaks is working to change the way President Joe Biden's Federal Trade Commission regulates the use of "natural gas" in marketing materials, Bloomberg reported Wednesday. For the group's campaign director, Caleb Heeringa, the term misleadingly suggests that the energy source is clean and should thus be replaced by expressions such as "fossil gas" and "methane gas."

"There's nothing natural about fracking; there's nothing natural about thousands of miles of pipelines and there's nothing natural about the indoor air pollution that is associated with gas," Heeringa said.

Despite Heeringa's claims, natural gas does occur naturally. The colorless, odorless fuel source forms when decomposing plants and animals are subject to underground heat and pressure. Its name was adopted in the 1820s, Bloomberg noted, to distinguish it from gas produced via unnatural means, such as by burning coal and oil.

It's unclear how Biden's Federal Trade Commission will react to Gas Leaks's efforts—the agency declined to comment. But Biden administration officials have taken cues from liberal climate activists in the past.

In January, for example, Biden's pick to serve on the Consumer Product Safety Commission, Richard Trumka Jr., threatened to ban gas stoves after an environmental group published a study attributing 13 percent of U.S. childhood asthma cases to gas stove use. Academics later criticized that study, and when Trumka's threat prompted swift backlash, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden would not support such a ban. Still, Biden's Energy Department has moved forward with regulations that would effectively ban at least half of all gas stoves on the U.S. market from being sold.

Should Biden's Federal Trade Commission entertain regulatory action targeting the use of "natural gas" in marketing materials, the effort will certainly attract pushback. The American Gas Association defended its use of the term Wednesday, telling Bloomberg that "natural gas" has "a history of use colloquially and in reference works, legislation, and academic journals."

Natural gas is "instantly recognizable to customers for what it is: the name of a vital source of energy for tens of millions of Americans," association general counsel Michael Murray said.