The Russian manipulation of U.S. politics they’re not talking about

It’s been four years since then–Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen of NATO warned of Russian propaganda efforts to fight fracking because it was threatening to harm dependence on their fossil fuels:

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 organisations – environmental organisations working against shale gas – to maintain European dependence on imported Russian gas.

It was discussed here, of course. Last year the U.S. intelligence community found

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. …

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.

To put things in perspective: A few short years ago, Americans by and large wanted energy independence, relief from suddenly spiking fuel prices, and lower energy emissions. The fracking revolution has brought all of those things about.

Oil had reached $145/barrel in 2008. It’s now less than half of that. Lower energy prices since 2008 are saving American families an estimated $700 per year, this which is especially beneficial to America’s poorer households. Abundant U.S. resources means we aren’t under OPEC’s thumb any more nor are we in danger of price spikes whenever there are jitters in the Middle East.

Finally, energy-based emissions are down significantly in the U.S. this century, not to mention North Carolina — thanks primarily to fracking.

All of this is why Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin, seeking to regain their control over energy resources and destabilize the U.S., are having to work that much harder with American allies or willing dupes to fight fracking and growth in America’s energy infrastructure.

Last month saw the release of a majority report from the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology documenting “Russian Attempts to Influence U.S. Domestic Energy Markets by Exploiting Social Media.”

There’s too much to quote, but here is a bulleted list of findings:

  • Between 2015 and 2017, there were an estimated 9,097 Russian posts or tweets regarding U.S. energy policy or a current energy event on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
  • Between 2015 and 2017, there were an estimated 4,334 IRA accounts across Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. [“IRA” refers to the Internet Research Agency, “a Russian company based in Saint Petersburg established by the Russian government for the purpose of deceptively using various social and traditional media platforms to advance Russian propaganda.”]
  • According to information provided by Twitter, more than four percent of all IRA tweets were related to energy or environmental issues, a significant portion of content when compared to the eight percent of IRA tweets that were related to the election in the U.S.
  • Russia exploited American social media as part of its concerted effort to disrupt U.S. energy markets and influence domestic energy policy.
  • The IRA targeted pipelines, fossil fuels, climate change, and other divisive issues to influence public policy in the U.S.

Jon Sanders / Research Editor and Senior Fellow, Regulatory Studies

Jon Sanders studies regulatory policy, a veritable kudzu of invasive government and unintended consequences. As director of regulatory studies at the John Locke Foundation, Jo...