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Please read this post carefully, because you will be quizzed on it later. No, not really.

But if the question, “Just what is natural gas?” has ever crossed your mind, we need to go back millyuns and millyuns of years, as the great scientist Dr. Carl Sagan used to say.

Long ago, when plant and animal life died, it got compressed underground with incredible force and was subjected to the earth’s heat for a great duration. The materials were trapped between layers of shale, a soft rock, and this sort of earthly “digestion” gave off natural gas as a byproduct.

Natural gas is first and foremost a hydrocarbon, meaning it is made up of compounds of hydrogen and carbon. The biggest ingredient in natural gas is methane, a compound of one carbon atom and four hydrogen atoms. There are other things in natural gas, too. Hydrocarbons ethane, propane and butane are all found in it, and all are highly flammable.

Natural gas is commonly used because it’s a clean-burning energy source. It releases virtually no sulfur dioxide, less soot and less carbon dioxide. Of all fossil fuels, natural gas emits the least pollution, according to the Natural Gas Supply Association.

Interestingly, natural gas has no color and no odor. “So why does a gas leak smell like that?” you may wonder. That’s because when the gas reaches a local utility, it is injected with mercaptan, an odorant. This is done for everyone’s safety. It’s very important to find the source of a gas leak and shut it off as soon as possible. So if you smell something, say something. Call your local utility right away.

So, now you know. And the more you know . . . (If we could, we’d make a shooting star go by at this point.)