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Of all the environmental campaigns mounted in this country, few have been more fervent, vociferous – and indeed effective – than the protests against fracking.
Over the past decade, groups such as Frack Off have successfully swung public opinion against what was once considered the answer to Britain’s energy needs.
In North America, where fracking – properly known as hydraulic fracturing, and by which water is pumped into beds of shale at high pressure to release gas – has been widely adopted, the process has helped to not only reduce energy prices, but is also reckoned to have given the US and Canada energy security for about a century.
Whereas here, in November 2019, the British Government announced a moratorium on fracking, stating it would ‘take a presumption against issuing any further Hydraulic Fracturing Consents’ in England. Similar suspensions were also announced in Scotland and Wales.
There is no doubt that if fracking were widely adopted throughout the UK and continental Europe, it would severely dent the demand for gas from Russia, and thereby lose Putin the billions he requires to prop up his regime and to prosecute his evil wars
Although the moratorium in England was brought about largely in reaction to seismic activity recorded during fracking at a site at Preston New Road near Blackpool, the Government was also responding to public opinion. In a survey carried out in autumn 2021, only 17 per cent of the public supported fracking, while 45 per cent were against it.
Those who oppose fracking do so mostly on environmental grounds, and claim that the process can not only pollute the water supply but also bring about dangerous earthquakes. Anti-fracking groups also advocate that Britain should not be burning gas and concentrate on developing renewable sources of energy.
While many such groups are doubtless sincere in their views, how many of their members have considered who really benefits from their opposition to fracking? And how many activists, no matter how well-intentioned, have considered where some of the funding for their groups may ultimately come from?
Troublingly enough, the answer to both questions is none other than Vladimir Putin.
There is no doubt that if fracking were widely adopted throughout the UK and continental Europe, it would severely dent the demand for gas from Russia, and thereby lose Putin the billions he requires to prop up his regime and to prosecute his evil wars.
Although it is unclear exactly how much extractable shale gas we have in Britain, some estimates put it as high as 330 billion cubic metres, with potential fields right around the country, but particularly in Lancashire and Yorkshire. One recent study estimated that it could meet some 20 per cent of the UK’s energy consumption from now until 2050.
It’s for this reason that this week a group of 40 Conservative parliamentarians – led by MPs Craig Mackinlay and Steve Baker, the chairman and deputy chairman of the Conservative Net Zero Scrutiny Group – have written to the Prime Minister demanding that the moratorium on fracking be reversed.
In the letter, they wrote: ‘We urge you to pause and conduct a review. At a time of such geopolitical strife, we cannot refrain from actions that would improve the position of the UK and its allies.’
Of all the environmental campaigns mounted in this country, few have been more fervent, vociferous – and indeed effective – than the protests against fracking. Over the past decade, groups such as Frack Off have successfully swung public opinion against what was once considered the answer to Britain’s energy needs
They have been joined by Nigel Farage, the former Ukip leader, who launched a new campaign for a referendum on Net Zero in last week’s Mail on Sunday.
Also supporting a move back to fracking is the Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, who sees the process as a way of ensuring Britain is independent of using Russian energy sources.
The timing could not be more acute, as this Tuesday – March 15 – the energy firm Cuadrilla has to concrete over its fracking wells in Lancashire on the orders of the Oil and Gas Authority.
The one man who will, of course, be delighted to see all that concrete being poured will be Vladimir Putin.
For the Russian President and his oligarchs, the ending of fracking in the UK and elsewhere will represent the cessation of a campaign secretly waged by the Russians to demonise fracking in the eyes of Western public opinion.
Before this can be dismissed as a paranoid conspiracy theory, one only has to take the words of none other than the former secretary-general of Nato, Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
He said in a speech in London in June 2014: ‘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.’
Russia has corrupted the entire public debate around fracking to suit its own ends (File image)
Although Mr Rasmussen would not be drawn on any specific allegations, his words should be taken very seriously indeed as they reveal that Russia has corrupted the entire public debate around fracking to suit its own ends.
There are countless examples throughout Europe of anti-fracking organisations springing up almost overnight, and being well-organised and highly militant.
In Bulgaria, a country highly reliant on Russian energy, anti-fracking movements and well-financed television campaigns erupted immediately after a shale gas exploration deal was signed with Chevron in 2011. A year later, the Bulgarian government banned fracking.
Something similar happened in the small town of Pungesti in Romania, which was the site of another Chevron exploration deal. The local mayor felt that he had helped his town to strike it rich, but instead he found himself being run out of town by a mob that had seemingly appeared from nowhere.
‘I was really shocked,’ the mayor recalled. ‘We never had protesters here and suddenly they were everywhere.’
Such stories abound throughout eastern Europe. ‘All of a sudden, in societies that never did grassroots organisation very well, you saw all these NGOs [non-governmental organisations], well-funded, popping up, and causing well-organised protests,’ Mihaela Carstei, an energy and environment analyst at the Atlantic Council told the US publication Foreign Policy.
Fracking – properly known as hydraulic fracturing, and by which water is pumped into beds of shale at high pressure to release gas – has been widely adopted, the process has helped to not only reduce energy prices, but is also reckoned to have given the US and Canada energy security for about a century (File image)
Does this help explain how many outlandish, and false, claims have taken root: that fracking means tap water will catch fire, for example, or that the water emerging from the process is dangerously radioactive? Putin himself has put his shoulder to the wheel, openly stating that fracking ‘poses a huge environmental problem’.
Places that have allowed it, he claimed, ‘no longer have water coming out of their taps but a blackish slime’. His mouthpiece, Russia Today (recently banned by the UK Government), has made similar claims, and made regular attacks on shale oil, with one presenter, Max Keiser, commenting that frackers are ‘the moral equivalent of paedophiles’.
According to a former US Director of National Intelligence, RT’s stance reflects economic self-interest and a fear of ‘the impact of fracking and US national gas production on the global energy market and the potential challenges to [Russian gas giant] Gazprom’s profitability’.
In Britain, we have seen a similar eruption of anti-fracking groups, although they are less militant. The website of Frack Off features hundreds of such groups from all around the British Isles, each with a Facebook page and often a dedicated website.
Unsurprisingly, the finances of all these anti-fracking groups are opaque, and as they are not registered charities, they are not obliged to reveal the sources of their donations.
Even if a group such as Frack Off were to be completely transparent about the source of its funds, it is likely that even the organisation’s members would be in the dark as to where all the funding ultimately came from.
There is no doubt that if fracking were widely adopted throughout the UK and continental Europe, it would severely dent the demand for gas from Russia, and thereby lose Putin the billions he requires to prop up his regime and to prosecute his evil wars (File image)
You have to look to the US for evidence of how these Russian operations work, and how – in all likelihood – the Russians have mounted their fracking disinformation campaigns in Britain and the rest of Europe.
As with so many murky and clandestine operations, it all starts with an offshore company. In this instance, the company was called Klein Limited, and it was based in Bermuda. The role of Klein Limited was ostensibly to give money to charitable causes.
In 2011 and 2012, it gave a total of $23 million to the Sea Change Foundation, which in turn made donations to various anti-fracking and environmental lobbying groups in the US, including the Sierra Club Foundation and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
With funds from the mysterious Klein, the Sierra Club launched its ‘Beyond Natural Gas’ campaign in 2013, which vigorously and publicly campaigned against fracking.
What greatly disturbed American lawmakers was the source of Klein’s millions. ‘None of this foreign corporation’s funding is disclosed in any way,’ the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee noted in 2016.
Unsurprisingly, the finances of all these anti-fracking groups are opaque, and as they are not registered charities, they are not obliged to reveal the sources of their donations
‘This is clearly a deceitful way to hide the source of millions of dollars that are active in our system, attempting to effect political change.’
There can be very little doubt that the ultimate source has to be Russia. In 2017, the US Congress Committee on Science, Space and Technology wrote: ‘Although the source of Klein’s capital has not been documented… deep connections to the Russian government and energy sector strongly suggest it is the source of Klein’s capital.’
It is now time for Britain’s anti-fracking and other environmental lobbying groups to be transparent about the sources of their income. The words of the former secretary-general of Nato and those of American lawmakers simply can no longer be ignored.
Frack Free Lancashire, the UK’s biggest protest group, denied receiving Russian money and accused pro-fracking groups of ‘ghoulish opportunism’.
‘We are aware that Anders Fogh Rasmussen made wild accusations about Russian funding back in 2014,’ said a spokesman. ‘When asked for evidence of this, he declined to give details. Nato’s press office could not distance themselves fast enough.’
Source: Daily Mail