For people who claim to be concerned about Russian disinformation, the left is awfully quiet about Moscow’s efforts to covertly propagandize against fracking in western nations. As discussions over American and European reliance on Russia for oil persist amid the war in Ukraine, there seems to be scant mention among the chattering class of the Kremlin’s campaign to undermine initiatives to find or create energy elsewhere.
For almost a decade, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been implementing an aggressive disinformation campaign intended to hinder efforts in the United States to produce its own oil. Indeed, Democratic politicians pushing measures to curtail oil production are, wittingly or unwittingly, doing Putin a tremendous favor.
During a House subcommittee hearing, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster said “evidence is overwhelming” that Russia is trying to “portray fracking as unsafe” to maintain its dominance in the industry. Rebekah Kofffler, a former Defense Intelligence Agency officer, told Fox Business the Kremlin conducts “covert influence operations” to discourage the US and Europe from fracking. Kofffler explained:
“They have been working with the environmentalist organizations. Basically, they’re running what we call covert influence operation and disinformation operations to promote green energy and to portray fracking as harmful. And they know that this message will resonate with those US audiences, certain US audiences, obviously, and European audiences.”
A report from Republicans on the US House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology states that documents produced by social media companies “confirmed that Russian agents were exploiting American social media platforms to disrupt domestic energy markets, suppress research and development of fossil-fuels, and stymie efforts to expand the use of natural gas.”
Moscow’s propaganda efforts go back several years. In 2014, former secretary-general of NATO and former prime minister of Denmark, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, told the Chatham House think tank in London about Putin’s disinformation campaign. He said:
“I have met allies who can report that Russia, as part of their sophisticated information and disinformation operations, engaged actively with so-called non-governmental organizations – environmental organizations working against shale gas – to maintain European dependence on imported Russian gas.”
In 2017, Texas Republican Reps. Lamar Smith and Randy Weber wrote a letter to then-Treasury Department Secretary Steven Mnuchin in which they detailed how Moscow is attempting to persuade western nations to abandon fracking. They accused the Kremlin and “complicit parties” of funneling money indirectly to environmental groups in the United States whose objective is to dissuade government officials from allowing fracking. The lawmakers claimed “tens of millions of dollars” were funneled through a corporation in Bermuda to the Sea Change Foundation, which then distributed the money to a variety of NGOs.
Fiona Hill, a scholar at the Brookings Institution, gave testimony before Congress in which she discussed how Russian agencies “deploy millions of dollars to weaponize our own political opposition research and false narratives.”
Then-Rep. Mike Conaway asked Hill if she believed Putin viewed fracking in the US and Europe as a threat to Russia’s industry. Hill responded, “in November 2011, I actually sat next to Vladimir Putin at a conference in which he made precisely that point.”
Hill continued, observing that Putin “started in 2011 making it very clear that he saw American fracking as a great threat to Russian interests.”
The Russian president has claimed he does not favor fracking because it is “terrible for the environment.” However, his motivations seem to be more self-serving than altruistic. One of the reasons why Europe seems to be impotent to take concrete action against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is because they are heavily reliant on Moscow for oil.
Putin’s efforts appear to have been fruitful in the United States. Several blue states like California, Washington, Maryland, and New York have banned fracking. This, along with President Joe Biden’s refusal to employ measures to make America less reliant on other countries for oil, has denied the US the opportunity to become Europe’s primary energy provider instead of Russia. This has given Moscow the leverage it needs to ensure the western world will not interfere with Putin’s designs on Ukraine in a more impactful way.
Yet, much of the activist media has remained silent on this matter. The same folks who wailed and gnashed their teeth over potential election interference don’t have much to say about its anti-fracking efforts. Those who pretended the fiasco over Hunter Biden’s laptop was Russian disinformation are keeping their lips zipped over this issue. In the end, it seems Russian disinformation is hunky-dory with these folks as long as it is in line with the agenda they seek to promote.
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