A method and apparatus for initiating an electrical discharge in a formation of flowing inert gas disposed adjacent the end of an active electrode by generating charged particles in the vicinity of said inert gas formation. The charged particles are generated by an auxiliary electrical discharge produced between the active electrode and a surrounding tube, which is not connected to any external source of biasing potential. Electrostatic charge is generated on the tube as the inert gas flows thereby. This charge bleeds off the tube through inwardly pointed tips on the tube, which act as discharge points. The charge then passes to the active electrode via the auxiliary discharge through the gas.