Tuesday, March 01, 2022



Just as the Soviet Union encouraged—and clandestinely funded—the so-called “peace movement” in Europe back in the 1970s and 1980s, in recent years Russia has encouraged (and also clandestinely funded) environmental opposition to fossil fuel production, and especially fracking, in Europe and elsewhere.

Matt Ridley reported on this at length back in 2019 in “The Plot Against Fracking.” Key part:

The Russians also lobbied behind the scenes against shale gas, worried about losing their grip on the world’s gas supplies. Unlike most conspiracy theories about Russian meddling in Western politics, this one is out there in plain sight. The head of Nato, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said the Russians, as part of a sophisticated disinformation operation, “engaged actively with so-called non-governmental organisations — environmental organisations working against shale gas — to maintain Europe’s dependence on imported Russian gas”.

The Centre for European Studies found that the Russian government has invested $95 million in NGOs campaigning against shale gas. Russia Today television ran endless anti-fracking stories, including one that “frackers are the moral equivalent of paedophiles”. The US Director of National Intelligence stated that “RT runs anti-fracking programming … reflective of the Russian Government’s concern about the impact of fracking and US natural gas production on the global energy market and the potential challenges to Gazprom’s profitability.” Pro-Russian politicians such as Lord Truscott (married to a Russian army colonel’s daughter) made speeches in parliament against fracking.

Ridley goes on to trace out how David Cameron’s conservative government a decade ago buckled under the public pressure, and killed a nascent natural gas production industry in Britain. The Russians were also behind successful anti-fracking campaigns in several eastern European countries, such as Bulgaria (I learned about this first hand in two trips to Bulgaria I made several years ago).

And here we are. Daniel Yergin has some useful thoughts on the scene in his interview this weekend with Andrew Ross Sorkin at the New York Times:

Sorkin: How did we get here?

Yergin: I think people just forgot about energy security. As the U.S. went from importing 60 percent of our oil to becoming an exporter, we then didn’t think about it anymore. What we’ve had recently is somewhat shortsighted policies about investment. And the term I’ve been using is “pre-emptive underinvestment” in developing new resources. Oil demand is still increasing and is likely to increase at least for the rest of this decade and perhaps into early next decade.

Sorkin: How much of that is a function of the move toward greener energy?

Yergin: There is a paper written by an economist, Jean Pisani-Ferry, from a macroeconomic point of view, saying if you try and move too fast it’s going to be quite disruptive. And he wrote that in August, and it sort of seemed like an interesting paper. And then this energy crisis in Europe began before Putin put the brakes on deliveries of gas last OctoberIt was also just within the last month that Germany closed down its last two nuclear power plants. And so that meant importing more gas.

Yergin is being typically diplomatic. If you read between the lines, it’s clear he is saying our policy makers both here and in Europe are idiots.