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December 7th, 2006

Time Names Air 'Gas Of The Year'

Previous Recipients Run The Gamut From Nitrous Oxide To Sarin

U.S. - Ending weeks of rumors and speculation, the weekly news magazine Time has named air as Gas of the Year for 2006.

"As we reviewed the events and issues that dominated 2006, air emerged as the clear choice for Gas of the Year," said Time managing editor Richard Luft. "It continues to be one of the most popular choices for Americans' everyday respiratory needs. It has a profound influence on our twenty-first century lifestyle."

In addition to its crucial role in allowing organisms to breathe and survive, Time cited air's important function in filling tires, balloons and basketballs.

This year's selection was met with mixed reactions. The Air Advisory Council, a conservative pro-air think tank, released a public statement praising Time's decision. "Time magazine has solidified air's position as the most important gas of the year, perhaps even the decade," the statement read. "We defy you to think of a better substance with which to fill the earth's atmosphere."

Others responded less favorably. Purists pointed out that air is not technically a gas but a mixture of gases, including nitrogen, oxygen and many other trace elements, and accused Time of "dumbing down" its content and insulting the intelligence of its readers.

Some critics of the decision argued that air has an often-ignored dark side. "Once again, the news media has proven that it's controlled by the air-centric right wing of this country," said George Wasser, spokesman for the Air Awareness Association. "It's true that air is a crucial part of the life-support system for most of the flora and fauna on the planet. But it's also a key contributing factor to fire, which kills 3,000 people a year in the United States alone. I guess Time just doesn't care about all those tragic deaths."

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"[Air] continues to be one of the most popular choices for Americans' everyday respiratory needs. It has a profound influence on our twenty-first century lifestyle."
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Time has pointed out that Gas of the Year is not an honor or award, but is a recognition of "the vaporous substance that has had the greatest influence of the year's events, for good or for ill."

Still, many younger Americans felt that the choice of air as the year's most important gas betrayed the magazine as hopelessly stodgy. "Time, if you'll pardon the pun, is behind the times," said Giselle DelFuego, fashion reporter for E! Entertainment Television. "Air? Puh-leaze! That is SO five nanoseconds ago."

Despite the criticism, most observers regarded air as a safe choice. By recognizing a beneficial, life-sustaining substance, Time has avoided the kind of firestorm caused by previous selections. The magazine received thousands of angry letters after naming mustard gas as Gas of the Year in 1918, when it was used as an effective weapon by Germany in World War I. Another controversy erupted in 1937, when hydrogen was named Gas of the Year, after a hydrogen explosion caused the fiery destruction of the Hindenburg, killing 36 people.

Other times, the recipient didn't even seem to meet the basic criteria, as in 1957, when the Gas of the Year was ketchup.

Before this year's Gas of the Year was revealed, rumors were circulating that Time would select carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas believed to be a major contributor to global warming. Senior editors reportedly squashed the idea, believing that in today's perilous and uncertain times, Americans needed an example of a friendly, soothing gas.

Air could not be reached for comment.

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