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Did Russia Manipulate U.S. Environmental Activists?

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The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology issued a report on March 1, 2018, detailing how Russian-supported entities teamed up with U.S. environmental groups to use social media to raise arguments against the production of oil and natural gas.
Meanwhile, Dr. Bonner Cohen recently wrote a column on May 13, 2018, about Russia’s attempts to influence U.S. domestic energy policy by using social media such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
As one reads such reports, it takes little imagination to conclude there might be Russian influence and money being used to undermine agriculture policy, as it clearly has on energy policy.
The Executive Summary of the House report claims the committee began investigating Russian attempts to influence U.S. energy markets in the summer of 2017. But the rumors in Washington regarding Russian money being funneled to U.S. environmental organizations have been around for years.
The letter from Chairman Lamar Smith, written last June, indicates “Russian-sponsored agents funneled money to U.S. environmental organizations in an attempt to portray energy companies in a negative way and disrupt domestic energy markets.”
Any of this sound familiar?
The House report states letters were sent to leaders of the social media industry and the following was concluded: “Documents that the American social media companies produced for the Committee confirmed that Russian agents were exploiting American social media platforms in an effort to disrupt domestic energy markets, suppress research and development of fossil-fuels, and stymie efforts to expand the use of natural gas.”
According to the report, many of the Russian-linked accounts targeted highly visible tension points in America, including protests against pipelines. The House report includes a lengthy section on why fracking in the energy field has reshaped the global energy landscape.
Connect the dots. Cheap oil is not good for the Russian economy. The increase in oil and gas production resulted in an enormous supply of oil and gas and some of this product is already making its way to European countries. Countries in Central and Eastern Europe are virtually totally dependent on Russia for natural gas.
One section of the report is entitled “Republicans and Democrats agree the Kremlin is manipulating environmental groups in an attempt to carry out their agenda.”
The report also claims that the Secretary General of NATO has claimed “Russia, as part of their sophisticated information and disinformation operations, engaged actively with so-called nongovernmental organizations-environmental organizations working against shale gas – to maintain dependence on imported Russian gas.”
Even former Secretary of State and Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton made a speech in 2014. according to the report. The House document reports, Secretary Clinton said, “We [the State Department and the U.S.] were up against Russia pushing oligarchs and others to buy media. We were even up against phony environmental groups, and I am a big environmentalist, but these were funded by the Russians to stand against any effort “oh that pipeline, that fracking, that whatever will be a problem for you,’ and a lot of the money supporting that message was coming from Russia.”
It gets better.
A Republican Staff Report by the Senate suggests that Russian funds have been funneled through off-shore corporations and passed on to U.S. based environmental activist organizations with the intent to effect political change.
Senator Ben Cardin, D, Maryland, has also released a report on how the Russians are manipulating the media. Sen. Cardin’s work indicates Russian intelligence agencies “…provide covert support to European environmental groups to campaign against fracking for natural gas, thereby keeping the European Union [countries] more dependent on Russian supplies.” Sen. Cardin goes so far in his report to state that environmental groups are “…useful idiots…”. Sen. Cardin believes unwitting environmental groups and activists are helping the Russians and are being manipulated in the process.
The House report suggests that the internet is being used by the Russians to further polarize issues we Americans debate vigorously. Russia is conducting an operation against our energy and environmental policies. The report goes on to list a number of social media posts which claim the energy companies are threatening justice and peoples’ lives.
The conclusion all of us should draw from the House Committee on Science’s report is that possibly the same strategy is being used against many issues in agriculture, such as property rights in the west, GMO questions and even opposition to concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs).
Attorneys representing entities against environmental groups might want to check to see if Russian money is involved in their issue. You never know.
(This article first ran in Farm Futures on May 22, 2018.)
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