The critics are all over shale gas in the US, claiming that gas operations are polluting both the air and the water. So here’s a simple solution – let’s rely on foreign imports for natural gas the way we do for oil. In this case, it’s quite foreign indeed – one of Saturn’s moons. Titan purportedly holds more natural gas and other liquid hydrocarbons than all proven oil and gas reserves on Earth based on recent data sent back from the Cassini spacecraft that is currently investigating the planet. According to information on NASA’s website, it is one of the most Earth-like places in the solar system, sort of a frozen version of our own dear planet. But minus the oxygen-rich atmosphere. It does have organic chemistry, though, and this is of great interest to a number of folks. I, for instance, have long assumed that looking for fossil fuels in the solar system is probably a waste of time because this implies that there might be fossils. But my husband, the chemical engineer, assures me that gases like methane are simple hydrocarbons and will form naturally when hydrogen and carbon are together under the right conditions. NASA scientists, meanwhile, are studying the complex chemical makeup of the moon’s atmosphere. One published paper reports that hydrogen molecules are flowing down through Titan’s atmosphere and disappearing at the surface, and another paper reports that there is a lack of acetylene at the surface. According to a press release on NASA’s Web site, Chris McKay, an astrobiologist at NASA Ames Research Center, said that acetylene would likely be the best energy source for a methane-based life form on Titan. While this headline was promptly blown out of proportion on many websites, it is definitely food for thought. Meanwhile, NASA has proposed a balloon-like instrument to sample Titan’s atmosphere as well as a “lake lander” to float on a Titan “lake,” most likely made of up methane gas. I doubt that hydrocarbon imports from Titan will be a reality any time soon. But discovering a rich source of hydrocarbons in the outer solar system certainly expands our understanding of how life begins.