May 23, 2013 | Vol. 117 -- No. 5

A new source of natural gas

The name “natural gas” might be a puzzle. After all, how could there be such a thing as unnatural gas?

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The reason we call natural gas what we do has to do with history. There was a day that people made burnable gas by heating coal. The gases that came off the coal were piped around cities where they did things like light street lamps and even power cook stoves in homes.

Coal gas had its downside. For one thing, it often contained carbon monoxide. And it took energy to make the gas, so it never could be truly cheap.

Happily, geologists figured out that a gas from within the Earth would...

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