Intelligence: Putin Is Funding the Anti-Fracking Campaign

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People walk away from a protest against fracking and neighborhood oil drilling in Los Angeles, California, May 14. Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

Recent intelligence reports show that Russia is interested in influencing more than just America's elections. Russian President Vladimir Putin and his cronies have taken aim at undermining the U.S. energy industry, as well.

Buried within the U.S. intelligence community's report on Russian activities in the presidential election is clear evidence that the Kremlin is financing and choreographing anti-fracking propaganda in the United States. By targeting fracking, Putin hopes to increase oil and gas prices, destabilize the U.S. economy and threaten America's energy independence.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a decades-old drilling technique in which water and sand is pumped through rock at a high pressure to release previously unreachable deposits of oil and natural gas.

Thanks to new technologies which are making the process more efficient and environmentally friendly, fracking now supports 4.3 million jobs and generates about half a trillion dollars in economic benefit to the United States every year. Additionally, natural gas prices have dropped in half thanks to the corresponding boost in supply, saving American families an average of $200 a year.  

Fracking is the major reason why the United States is on pace to become completely energy independent by 2020. America relies on fracking to produce more than 1.5 billion barrels of oil a year -- over half of the total U.S. oil output.

Russia sees all this as a threat.

Related: Time to shine a light on Putin's American propaganda arm

The Russian government, which relies heavily on energy exports for revenues, is concerned "about the impact of fracking and U.S. natural gas production on the global energy market," according to the intelligence report. Increased U.S. gas exports, the report continues, creates "potential challenges" for the profitability of Gazprom, Russia's state-owned oil and gas monopoly.  

In response to America's growing fracking industry, RT, Russia's government-funded international media outlet, aired air a slew of dubious attacks against fracking.

Over just seven months in 2015, RT managed to ram 62 different anti-fracking television stories and news reports down viewers' throats. That doesn't even include an hour-long, largely discredited anti-fracking documentary that airs regularly on RT in America and around the world.

It's little wonder why the intelligence report called RT "the Kremlin's principal international propaganda outlet."

This isn't the first time the Russian government has been accused of masterminding anti-fracking activism.

In 2014, intelligence information led then-NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen to conclude that Moscow conspired with environmental groups to block fracking activities in Romania, Lithuania and Bulgaria.

"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 dependence on imported Russian gas," said Rasmussen.  

Here in the United States, a Senate report found that the Sea Change Foundation funneled more than $43 million to environmental causes in 2011 -- padding the budgets of ardent anti-fracking organizations like the League of Conservation Voters, the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council. The Foundation is heavily funded by a Bermuda-based shell corporation with direct ties to Putin and Russian oil interests. The shady firm is currently under indictment for offshore money laundering.

The influence of Russian propaganda and the influx of money funneled from the Kremlin to many of America's most extreme environmental outfits helps explain why anti-fracking attacks continue even though science has confirmed fracking poses no threat to public health.

A five-year study from the Environmental Protection Agency could "not find evidence that [fracking] led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources in the United States." Former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson admitted there hasn't been a single "proven case where the fracking process itself has affected water."

The U.S. Geological Survey and the Groundwater Protection Council both found fracking caused no groundwater contamination. A recently concluded three-year study performed by geologists at the University of Cincinnati also found fracking had no impact on local water supplies.

Clearly, fracking has benefited the United States. It has created millions of jobs, spurred the economy and created a path to energy independence, all without posing a risk to people or the environment.

It seems the only folks left attacking fracking are puppets of the anti-science, anti-American Russian propaganda machine. These people hope that lies about fracking can weaken the United States, dry up the supply of oil and gas, drive up energy costs and force European countries to pour money into Putin's coffers.

As the U.S. intelligence report proves, Russia is willing to go to great lengths to destroy America's fracking industry. But the United States should stand firm against this threat. The battle over fracking is one fight America can't afford to lose.

Drew Johnson is a senior fellow at the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA), a nonpartisan, nonprofit educational organization dedicated to a smaller, more responsible government.