Bankrupt Words: Natural Gas

“He who controls the language controls the masses.”

– Saul Alinsky in Rules for Radicals


My mom switched to “light” cigarettes after the mandatory warnings appeared on her boxes of smokes in the early 1970s.


I used to break her cigarettes in half and put them back in the pack. It was my feeble attempt as a ten year old to stop her habit. The focus on milligrams of tar and nicotine in the marketing messages kept smokers from quitting for years.

Baby steps, they told themselves.

Everyone thought light cigarettes were the lesser evil.

Mom finally quit her pack a day habit after more and more evidence of harm continued to pile up. Years later, she died as a result of complications following surgery to remove a football sized tumor in her lung. She never had a chance to know her granddaughters.

LIGHT continues to be a term used on food and cigarettes. Light yogurts have less sugar than regular yogurt. But it turns out that those artificial sweeteners are even more hazardous to your health than regular sugar. Cancer, diabetes, migraines and weight gain top the list of the less than sweet side effects.

Sugar and artificial sweeteners are as addictive as cigarettes. We really don’t want to face these facts. So we soothe our worries with words. Words like LIGHT that have no meaning.

Maybe tomorrow we will stop.

When the evidence of harm, more cases of obesity, cancer and diabetes become so obvious that we cannot look the other way. Or will it take losing a loved one to wake up?


Another word that means essentially nothing.

People assume that natural foods are minimally processed which do not contain additives like hormones, colors or flavors that were not originally in the food. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has not developed a definition for use of the term natural.

Natural sounds nice. Like something we’d strive for. But it is a word divorced from any real meaning.

People pay more for natural foods. The words are soothing.

Whoever came up with the term “natural gas” was a genius.

The technical term is methane, a deadly and destructive fossil fuel.

Thanks to the tireless work of ANGA (America’s Natural Gas Alliance) and the API (the American Petroleum Institute), most Americans falsely believe that natural gas is “clean“, “safe” and a “bridge fuel” to the future.

These words are outright lies.

There is nothing clean about methane, just ask the thousands of families in Porter Ranch, California who are evacuating because of a methane leak. Their pets and their kids have unexplained rashes, nosebleeds, headaches and more. Who knows if Porter Ranch residents will grow old to see their grandkids or if a cancerous tumor will get in their way.

SAFE Nope.

Methane is flammable and explosive. Just ask the folks in San Bruno, California where a methane pipeline exploded, incinerating more than 40 homes and killing 8. The methane fueled fires burned out of control for hours.

Saying natural gas is a bridge fuel to the future is similar marketing for light cigarettes. It keeps everyone deluded into thinking that they can transition to a better energy one day soon.

Baby steps, right?

The lesser evil, right?

Proponents say gas burns cleaner than coal. But when it leaks it wrecks far more damage than coal. Fugitive methane is 80+ times worse as a greenhouse gas, fast tracking all of us to an unlivable climate situation that no one wants to face.

We are in quite a pickle.

We have numerous addictions that are a very real threat to our health, safety and future.

It’s going to take some real work to look through the bankrupt words, face facts and take meaningful action.

The evidence of harm continues to mount.

What will it take for people to look beyond the soothing words created by corporate masterminds?

What words are needed to break the trance?

This is my quest.