Putin’s Anti-Fracking Campaign

by Robert Zubrin
He knows that European greens can help further his dreams of conquest.

Vladimir Putin, the ruler of Russia, wants to ban fracking in other countries. He is very concerned about their environments. If you frack, Putin told a global economic conference last year, “black stuff comes out of the tap.”

Alexey Miller — a longtime Putin crony going back to the early 1990s, when they stole the money that was supposed to buy food for the starving city of Leningrad, who now oversees the Russian state-owned gas company Gazprom — strongly supports his friend on this issue. He would like to see an EU-wide ban on fracking, and the Gazprom board is with him 100 percent. “The production of shale gas is associated with significant environmental risks, in particular the hazard of surface and underground water contamination with chemicals applied in the production process,” they warned the world in 2011. “This fact has already caused the prohibition of the shale gas development and production in France.”

Alexandr Medvedev, the general director of Gazprom Export, is also very supportive of efforts to ban fracking in Europe. “I would like to quote the president of France, who said that as long as he’s president, he will not allow the production of shale gas in France,” Medvedev said in a television interview last August. “The cost of production of shale gas in Europe is incomparably higher than in the U.S. and also the situation with the environment is different, because in the U.S. its main production is in unpopulated areas, which are quite available in the U.S., but in Europe we can’t find such big unpopulated areas with reach to the water.”

The fact that Kremlin opposition to European fracking has nothing to do with environmental concerns should be clear even to the dullest among us, because Russia has massive fracking projects of its own underway in Siberia. The real goal is to keep Europe dependent upon Russia for its fuel supply. Natural-gas prices in Europe are quadruple those prevailing in the United States, and by maintaining a near-monopoly on overpriced European natural-gas imports, the Putin regime assures itself of a vast source of revenue. This allows it to rule and rearm Russia without permitting the freedom necessary to develop the country’s human potential. Furthermore, so long as Europe is kept critically dependent upon Russia for fuel, Moscow can paralyze and render ineffective any Western response to its plans for conquest, whose initial steps are currently being demonstrated in Ukraine. More, and much worse, is certain to follow so long as Europe remains helpless.

In a recent four-hour television appearance in Moscow, Putin explicitly embraced Kremlin fascist ideologue Alexander Dugin’s grand design of creating a united totalitarian Eurasia, “from Lisbon to Vladivostok.” If he can maintain control of Europe’s critical fuel supplies, he just might be able to pull it off.

So it should come as no surprise that the Putin regime is pulling out all the stops in fomenting the global anti-fracking movement, with Europe as its central target. Leading the propaganda campaign has been RT News, Russia’s state-owned television network, which broadcasts around the world in English and other languages.

Here is a small sample of RT’s incessant anti-fracking drumbeat:

Wrecking the Earth: Fracking has grave radiation risks few talk about, August 28, 2013

Fracking fluid linked to fish die-off, August 29, 2013

US fracking wells annually produce 280bn gallons of toxic waste water destroying environment – report, October 4, 2013

Chevron halts search for shale gas in Romania following public outrage, October 17, 2013

“We say no to shale gas”: World unites against fracking, October 20, 2013

Money & influence: Oil & gas co’s hush threats of fracking, November 21, 2013

Fracking dilemma: Fresh water or cheap gas? The latter “is not likely to happen,” November 25, 2013

Fracking nightmare: “Like living in a very heavy industrial zone,” November 29, 2013

Massachusetts seeks 10-yr ban on gas fracking after series of Texas quakes, November 30, 2011

City of Dallas effectively bans fracking, December 13, 2013

Hazardous fracking waste: Activists alarm at proposal to move it by river, December 16, 2013

Fracking chemicals disrupt human hormone functions, study claims, December 17, 2013

UK government found ‘cheerleading’ for fracking industry, January 18, 2014

UK Fracking could be allowed under people’s homes without their consent, January 27, 2014

Living near fracking sites increases infant birth defects – study, January 31, 2014

“Most of us eventually get gagged by the industry”: Restrained activist exposes fracking business, February 3, 2014

Hundreds gather for anti-fracking march in Manchester, March 9, 2014

Anti-fracking activist asks court to lift ban keeping her from local hospital, grocery store, March 24, 2014

Oklahoma breaks record with hundreds of earthquakes after fracking intensifies, April 7, 2014

Methane emissions from fracking vastly underestimated by EPA – study, April 16, 2014

The Voice of Russia has been equally ardent in propagandizing for a halt to Western fracking, with one recent article going so far as to advance the claim that riots in Venezuela are being caused by American fracking. Here are some selections from another, which argues that the U.S. is “demonizing Putin” in order to stampede the EU into accepting fracking:

“It all falls into place,” says Peter Koenig, a former World Bank economist and the author of Implosion — An Economic Thriller about War, Environmental Destruction and Corporate Greed, in an interview with the Voice of Russia. “If Washington and its media outlets are successful in portraying Vladimir Putin as a demon of war, then American energy companies will have the green light to frack in Europe in order to reduce the dependency on Russia. They will be seen as a lesser evil or even as benefactors saving Europe from the ‘evil Putin.’ ”

The VoR then breathlessly asks: “Does Europe really want to risk its citizens’ health in order to obtain some shale gas?” Koenig continues:

The spineless European politicians will bend over backwards to satisfy the American energy companies. The Obama Administration is proposing a trade agreement between the US and the EU, involving the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, to reduce Europe’s dependence on Russia’s energy resources. . . . The US is leading the EU into a trap, making European countries give up on their environmental standards for the sake of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. . . . Following America and serving the interests of its corporate and banking elites is not a good idea. But all is not lost. So far, sanctions are nothing more than bluff and fracking has not begun yet. For Europe there is still time to come to its senses.

The Kremlin’s all-out effort to stop fracking in Western nations is not limited to openly broadcasting lies, hysteria, and propaganda through its official media organizations. It also engages in covert operations, behind-the-scenes lobbying and payoffs, and political manipulations using its agents of influence. Many of these are documented by former U.S. ambassador to Lithuania Keith C. Smith in a recent paper published by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

In this paper, titled “Unconventional Gas and European Security: Politics and Foreign Policy of Fracking in Europe,” Smith details Kremlin/Gazprom behind-the-scenes operations that were instrumental in obtaining fracking bans in Germany and Bulgaria. Similar dirty work appears to have been involved in ramming through fracking bans in France, Italy, and other European countries.

Commenting on the Gazprom board’s public statement hailing the French fracking ban, Ambassador Smith writes:

This begs the question of whether Gazprom interests in France had a hand in that country’s ban on shale operations, particularly since it was passed with little public debate. At least one major international consultancy operating under contract from Gazprom has been active in France. . . . 

The Putin Government’s policy is to delay shale development from hydraulic fracturing in Europe as long as possible. As Gazeta Polska reported on June 1, 2011, General Jiri Sedivy, former Chief of the Czech General Staff, stated that Russia is “influencing the public opinion {in Europe} through environmentalist and pacifist organizations, methods used by the Russians for quite a long time.”

. . . Gazprom is believed by some to have supported the distribution of the film Gasland, a highly flawed and incendiary account of alleged environmental damage caused by shale gas activities in the U.S. It should be noted that there are several high-powered consultancies located in Brussels, Berlin, Paris, Rome and Washington that quietly represent Gazprom interests in Europe and the U.S. For example, Ketchum, a public relations branch of the larger firm, Omnicom is, according to the U.S. Justice Department, a registered lobbyist for Gazprom interests in the U.S. . . . 

A company affiliated with Omnicom that is reportedly active in promoting Gazprom interests is GPlus Europe, cited by the Financial Times (January 29, 2009) as “one of Europe’s most influential lobbying firms.” The British co-founder of GPlus was previously the EU Commission’s spokesman for trade and EU foreign policy. Several other high-level GPlus officers once held key positions in the EU Commission and the Council of Ministers. . . . 

The term “Schroederization” of European politics is increasingly being used to refer to the willingness of high-level European political leaders to lend their contact lists and prestige to Russia’s business and political interests. Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder worked with Gazprom (using a former Stasi officer as intermediary) while still in office, arranging for a German Government loan guarantee for Gazprom, and a lucrative job for himself after leaving office. Since then Schroeder has occupied key positions in Gazprom, Nord Stream and more recently, TNK/BP. Former Finnish Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen assisted Schroeder in overcoming Finnish and Swedish opposition to Russia’s Nord Stream Pipeline. In addition, former Austrian and Finnish government officials have helped direct efforts to win European support for the very expensive Russian proposed South Stream Pipeline.

Many Western companies are willing to support Moscow’s energy policies in order to gain stronger positions in the Russian market. As the UralSib Bank’s Chris Weaver remarked, “Gazprom does not have to knock on the door of the European Parliament, Total {French} and Basf {German} do it on its behalf” . . . West European intelligence services report that there has been little or no reduction in the number of Russian agents operating in their countries since the end of the Cold War. The Kremlin’s goals have shifted from military targets to developing “agents of influence” within European governments and in the three major EU institutions. With President Putin playing a direct role in Russia’s energy relations with Europe, one should assume that his KGB-honed skills and those of his major advisors are being applied to maintain Russia’s leading position in Europe’s gas import market.

If Europe’s fuel supplies remain under Russian control, the continent is doomed to fall under Russian domination. America could help supply gas, but its exports are being bottled up by the Obama administration, which refuses to approve the necessary permits for constructing liquid-natural-gas export terminals. France and Germany have plenty of shale suitable for producing gas, but on the instigation of Russian political agents of influence, they have not only banned fracking but are moving to shrink or shut down their own nuclear-power industries as well. The UK also has large shale resources that could be fracked to provide the necessary gas, which is why an all-out Moscow-backed campaign has been launched to stop fracking there as well. If that succeeds, the only remaining hope for Europe will lie in its east.

Ukraine has the third-largest shale resources in Europe. But, as a result of the Western paralysis caused by Europe’s Russian-gas dependency, Ukraine is being conquered, and in fact, its eastern reserves have already been overrun. The Baltic states also have plenty of gas-rich shale, so they will be targeted next. Based on the pathetic Western response to his Ukrainian land grab, Putin has every reason to believe that he can take them at will, and, unfortunately, he is probably right.

That leaves Poland, which has the largest shale-gas reserves of any country in Europe and a fiercely independent government intent on their development. Polish shale-gas reserves are estimated at 790 trillion cubic feet (TCF), more than 150 times the 5 TCF per year that Europe imports from Russia. If the Poles can develop those resources, Putin’s power to create an Eurasianist empire stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok will be severely compromised. But they will do Europe no good at all if Putin can seize them first.

Poland is a country that knows the value of freedom. When their turn comes, the Poles will fight. But if Putin’s anti-fracking campaign prevails, the Poles will fight alone.

— Robert Zubrin is president of Pioneer Energy and the author of Energy Victory. The paperback edition of his latest book, Merchants of Despair: Radical Environmentalists, Criminal Pseudo-Scientists, and the Fatal Cult of Antihumanism, was recently published by Encounter Books.

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