The Trump administration, despite being accused of facilitating Russian collusion in the 2016 Presidential election, is, with the rest of America, actually a victim of Russian sabotage.
American environmental groups’ threats to halt energy projects and defence operations, long a problem, have grown recently, thanks in part to Russian support. They are now more dangerous to energy security than ever.
While the media remain obsessed with “Russia collusion” in the 2016 elections, they ignore a more serious problem: Russian efforts to shrink American energy production.
Russian-backed cyberattacks on the U.S. energy sector amount to what U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry calls “an act of war.” But while worrisome, those probably are less effective in the long run than another strategy.
It’s not mere collusion but open and direct cooperation between Russia and American environmental organizations to thwart the growth of the U.S. energy industry.
That industry is on the rise, thanks to the discovery and, by applying the combined technologies of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, use of huge natural gas reserves across large basins covering multiple states.
Shale gas production more than doubled between 2011 and 2016, and proven reserves (shale gas that can be extracted and used for energy) continue to rise as exploration continues.
The International Energy Agency predicts that U.S. shale production will reach 1.3 million barrels a day in 2018, and there is a huge organic cash flow into the industry, eliminating the need to borrow from banks. This points to an energy-independent U.S.
And that is why other big natural gas exporters, particularly Russia, are determined to make countries like the UK and U.S. curtail oil and gas exploration.
To halt natural gas extraction and other pipeline projects, anonymous donors pump millions of dollars into environmental advocacy groups. Then they use those groups as proxies to serve their vested interest in impeding the growth of American energy infrastructure projects, to rein in American competition for energy markets, to bolster their own revenues.
Of the many American environmental advocacy groups complicit in this war-by-other-means strategy, two are particularly guilty of colluding with Russia to quell American production.
The Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC) and the Sierra Club Foundation (SCF) have been advocating for the restriction of energy exploration and such advocacy could be harming the operation of defence forces.
Both NRDC and SCF get large amounts of money from the Sea Change Foundation, which receives funds from Russia and other sources and disseminates them to NRDC, SCF, and other Green advocacy groups.
The Daily Signal reported that NRDC and SCF alone received more than $10 million in grants from Sea Change.
When approached by journalists about the ultimate sources of funding through Sea Change, both NRDC and SCF gave ambiguous responses.
How did Sea Change’s gifts pay off?
NRDC and SCF filed an unusually large number of lawsuits against shale gas exploration. They organized a large network of advocacy groups, lobbyists, and lawyers in strategic places, including Washington, D.C., and state capitals.
Recent successes include blocking fracking projects in New York, where energy bills are soaring because of the state’s stubbornness in rejecting affordable, clean natural gas.
Intelligence reports indicate that this is not the first time Russia has blocked fracking through environmental groups. It tried the same trick in Bulgaria, Lithuania, and Romania. A potential shale boom in Europe like the one in the U.S. would hurt Russia’s economy by reducing Europe’s dependence on Russian gas.
But Russia is not finished interfering with U.S. production. It will continue using environmental advocacy groups as platforms for economic and political sabotage.
It is ironic that two of America’s biggest environmental advocacy groups act as enemy agents in the same country that guarantees their right to pursue their dreams and flourish as they do.
Democrats should set aside party politics and join Republicans in the battle against Russia’s breach of national energy security and the home-grown threats from environmental groups.
While Trump and Putin may shake hands and smile at each other before the world, tensions are sure to rise behind the scene in Washington and Moscow.
Vijay Jayaraj (M.Sc., Environmental Science, University of East Anglia, England), Research Associate for Developing Countries for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, lives in Chennai, India.