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The Connection Between Russia and 2 Green Groups Fighting Fracking in U.S.

New Yorkers who are missing out on the natural gas revolution could be victims of Russian spy operations that fund popular environmental groups, current and former U.S. government officials and experts on Russia worry.

Natural gas development of the celebrated Marcellus Shale deposits has spurred jobs and other economic growth in neighboring Pennsylvania. But not in New York, which nearly 10 years ago banned the process of hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, to produce natural gas.

Two environmental advocacy groups that successfully lobbied against fracking in New York each received more than $10 million in grants from a foundation in California that got financial support from a Bermuda company congressional investigators linked to the Russians, public documents show.

The environmental groups Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club Foundation received millions of dollars in grants from the San Francisco-based Sea Change Foundation.

“Follow the money trail, and this [New York] ban on fracking could be viewed as an example of successful Russian espionage,” Ken Stiles, a CIA veteran of 29 years who now teaches at Virginia Tech, told The Daily Signal.

To Stiles and other knowledgeable observers, this looks like an actual case of knowing or unknowing collusion with Russia.

Both Natural Resources Defense Council and Sierra Club Foundation also accepted tens of millions from the Energy Foundation, the top recipient of grants from Sea Change, according to foundation and tax records.

When New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, renewed his state’s ban on fracking three years ago, the Natural Resources Defense Council issued a statement supporting the ban. So did the Sierra Club, the primary recipient of grants from its sister organization, the Sierra Club Foundation.

Environmental activists associated with the groups receiving Sea Change Foundation grants continued to pressure Cuomo and other public officials to maintain and expand New York’s fracking ban.

Most recently, the two environmental groups scored another victory when the Delaware River Basin Commission, an interstate regulatory agency that includes the governors of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, proposed a ban on fracking within the Delaware River Basin cutting across all four states.

The Sierra Club and the Natural Resource Defense Council have pressed the regional commission to impose the ban, issuing statements (here and here) calling for  restrictions that are tighter than what the commission proposed.

PennEast Pipeline Co. is set to begin construction on a 120-mile-long pipeline to transport natural gas from the Marcellus Shale across Eastern Pennsylvania into New Jersey. In a new public relations campaign, PennEast asks New Jersey residents if they would rather obtain their energy from Pennsylvania or Russia.

PennEast cites media reports describing how anti-pipeline policies in Massachusetts forced the state into a position where it had to rely on Russian imports of liquified natural gas during peak cold periods this past winter.

The Russian Money Trail

Government officials and environmental leaders have a responsibility to track the money, Stiles, the former CIA officer, told The Daily Signal in an interview.

“The Russians are very adept and skilled at making long-term investments,” Stiles said. “They sit back very patiently to see how their funding can pay off over a period of many years.”

Stiles added:

Whether these environmental groups realize it or not, they could be operating as what we [in the CIA] call ‘agents of influence.’ By working to block natural gas production, environmental activists are advancing policies that work to the advantage of Russia and to the disadvantage of America and America’s allies.

Logo of the Natural Resources Defense Council

Karen Moreau, who is in charge of the New York office of the American Petroleum Institute, a trade association for gas and oil companies, argues that the resulting policy hurts state residents and businesses.

“New York remains at a disadvantage because other states are not just more pro-energy, they are more pro-business and therefore pipelines that could have been constructed in New York taking gas from the Marcellus Shale are instead moving south, not north,” Moreau told The Daily Signal.

“The manufacturing renaissance that is taking place in this country thanks to the president’s policies is not happening in states like New York,” she said.

A senior adviser to the State Department told a recent conference that Trump administration policies supporting energy dominance could help the U.S. eclipse the amount of natural gas Russia exports to the European Union.

The Daily Signal unsuccessfully sought comment from the Sierra Club Foundation and its affiliate the Sierra Club, as well as Natural Resources Defense Council and Sea Change Foundation, on the allegations of Russian financial support for environmentalists’ anti-fracking and anti-pipeline campaigns.

The Marcellus Shale is a geological formation of sedimentary rock with large deposits of natural gas that cuts across southwestern New York, northern and western Pennsylvania, western Ohio, most of West Virginia, and small portions of Kentucky and Tennessee.

The U.S. Geological Survey determined that the Marcellus Shale contains “about 84 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered, technically recoverable natural gas and 3.4 billion barrels of undiscovered, technically recoverable natural gas liquids.”

Since the U.S. is now the top producer of natural gas in the world, and well positioned to export liquefied natural gas across the globe, Russia recognizes it gradually could lose influence in parts of the world where Moscow has been the dominant supplier of oil and gas, Stiles said in a phone interview.

“America’s natural gas revolution has huge geopolitical ramifications, so Russia’s motivation to try to block our natural gas development is easy to understand,” the CIA veteran said. “If you are worried about the Russian bear rearing its ugly head in the next several years, the way to stop that and put it back into its cage is to cut it off at the knees financially.”

“That’s what natural gas pipelines are all about and that’s what fracking is all about. We are providing affordable energy to average Americans at home and our allies overseas.”

The Sierra Club Foundation’s logo

US Gains in Market

In the fracking technique applied to shale formations, engineers inject water mixed with sand and chemicals into a well at high pressure, producing a fluid that fractures the rock and releases trapped oil or natural gas.

Environmentalists continue to challenge fracking, arguing among other things that it contaminates well water.

The natural gas import-export equation has changed radically in the past few years, with trends pointing to the U.S. becoming a net exporter.

Richard Westerdale, the senior adviser with the State Department, made this point in November during the Heartland Institute’s America First Energy Conference in Houston, Texas.

“By 2020, the U.S. will be approaching nearly 100 billion cubic meters in [liquefied natural gas] exports,” Westerdale said in a presentation. “It’s simply amazing to me to think that back in 2010, we were building [liquefied natural gas] import terminals.”

As natural gas markets become increasingly competitive, the “world wins,” he added, since “well-functioning markets reinforce global energy security, foster economic growth and commercial interests abroad, and, depending upon how host countries choose to use [natural gas resources], it can in fact enhance environmental stewardship.”

In three of the first five months of 2017, U.S. natural gas exports were greater than imports, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The most recent available data shows that U.S. exports of liquefied natural gas increased for the duration of 2017 as new facilities went operational.

Logo of Sea Change Foundation

What Consumers Know

Stiles, who teaches espionage and national security issues in Virginia Tech’s geography department, defines espionage, or spying, as “an operation that is planned and executed as to conceal the identity of, or permit plausible denial by, the sponsor.”

One way for Moscow to conceal its sponsorship of anti-fracking campaigns in New York or elsewhere in the U.S. is to move its funding indirectly and anonymously through various entities, the former CIA analyst told The Daily Signal.

“I think the groups and individuals on both sides of the debate over fracking and pipelines have a tendency to just look in their own back yards, without looking at the larger geopolitical picture,” Stiles said. “If it was more widely known that anti-fracking, anti-pipeline operations may be benefitting from a foreign source of funding, this would certainly impact the debate.”

The agents of influence described by Stiles range from “controlled agents” and “trusted contacts” who know they’re working for a foreign government to “manipulated sources” who have no idea that they’re doing the bidding of a foreign power.

The former CIA analyst said he is inclined to characterize environmental activists who received Russian funding through indirect channels, such as Sea Change or the Energy Foundation, as manipulated sources.

Stiles calls on the leadership of environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council, which accepted large amounts through such channels, to start asking hard questions.

“It’s either a lack of due diligence or incompetence, or they may actually know something about a particular donor, but they don’t want to ask that question,” Stiles said. “I tend to think the issue is more that they are just not looking the gift horse in the mouth, and they are just taking the money.”

Energy Foundation’s logo

Paperless Money Trail

Sea Change Foundation, a family charity, is identified in congressional reports and correspondence as a major incubator of funding from foreign sources, including Russia. That money ends up in the coffers of U.S. environmental groups opposed to natural gas development and drilling techniques such as fracking that make that development possible.

Nathaniel Simons and his wife, Laura Baxter-Simons, established Sea Change Foundation in 2006. Simons is the son of James Simons, founder of the New York-based Renaissance Technologies hedge fund firm.

Sea Change, according to its website, works to “address the serious threats posed by global climate change,” focusing on “climate change mitigation and clean energy policy in the United States and internationally.”

In July 2014, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee released a report describing how a Bermuda-based company, Klein Ltd., “was set up for the sole purpose of funneling anonymous donations to Sea Change.”

Bermuda law permits Klein Ltd. to conceal foreign sources of funding, the report explains.

“It appears that Klein exists on paper only, as it does not have an internet presence, and was set up for the sole purpose of funneling anonymous donations to Sea Change,” the report says.

Subsequent investigations building on the findings of the Senate committee—including that of the Washington-based Environmental Policy Alliance—established a connection between Wakefield Quin, the law firm that set up Klein, and top Kremlin officials, including Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Lawyers and others at Wakefield Quin have been associated with Russian energy companies and worked with Leonid Reiman, a former Russian minister of telecommunications and longtime Putin ally, these investigations found.

Environmental Policy Alliance, which opposes the agenda of liberal green groups, is affiliated with Washington lobbyist Rick Berman and his Berman & Co. public affairs firm.

Sea Change has not responded directly to The Daily Signal in the past, and did not respond for this report.

In an email to Salon, however, the foundation in July 2017 acknowledged receiving financial support from Klein, saying it accepted the company’s grant money as “general support” with no proviso that it be used for specific programs.

Response From Klein Ltd.

In an email to The Daily Signal, Roderick M. Forrest, a Wakefield Quin lawyer representing Klein Ltd., described allegations against his Bermuda-based client as “completely false and irresponsible.” Klein, he said, “has no Russian connection whatsoever.”

Forrest made similar assertions in an email to The Washington Times in July 2017.

The Daily Signal had sought the law firm’s comment on allegations of Russian funding of U.S. environmental groups and Klein’s alleged role in easing movement of Russian funds to the Sea Change Foundation.

“Our firm has represented Klein since its inception,” Forrest said in the email, “and we can state categorically that at no point did this philanthropic organization receive or expend funds from Russian sources or Russian-connected sources and Klein has no Russian connection whatsoever.”

The lawyer for Klein added:

Attorneys, law firms, financial institutions and all other companies based in Bermuda operate under a regulatory and anti-money laundering regime which applies standards which are amongst the highest in the world. Illicit movement of funds falls well below such standards and any informed party would understand that, not only is there no substance or truth to such allegations in this case, the allegations appear to be intended to damage the reputation of the Bermuda-based individuals and businesses named.

Bermuda and the U.S. have in place an information exchange framework under which the U.S. government, its regulators and law enforcement agencies have access to all information concerning financial transactions in Bermuda and by Bermuda entities. Through this framework, information is available to such proper authorities, enabling them to be satisfied as to the probity of any alleged payments.

Julie Hill, a professor at University of Alabama School of Law with expertise in regulation of financial institutions, told The Daily Signal that it is not “as easy as it was at one time to engage in money laundering” in places such as Bermuda and the Cayman Islands.

That’s because monetary authorities now collect more information from companies than they did previously, Hill said.

“This information is not made public, but it can be given to foreign governments,” Hill said in an interview, adding:

The advantage in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands now would be more in terms of tax neutrality rather than anonymity. But it’s certainly true that various entities have in the past engaged in money laundering schemes in these locations, and the Russians would be part of this history. Today there are more barriers than in the past. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done, it just means it’s harder.

‘Ripe for Investigation’

Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, sent a letter in June to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin saying allegations of Russian financial support for U.S. environmental groups “are ripe for an investigation” by the Treasury Department.

In the letter, previously reported by The Daily Signal, Smith noted that Klein Ltd. and Wakefield Quin share the same Bermuda address “with more than 20 other companies” apparently run through the law firm.

A review of IRS 990 Forms shows that Klein contributed $23 million to Sea Change in 2010 and 2011, almost half of what the California foundation received in that time. The 990 forms indicate Sea Change then made grants concentrated on environmental advocacy groups.

From 2010  through 2015, the Sierra Club Foundation received more than $18 million from Sea Change and Natural Resources Defense Council received more than $15 million.

Both groups are on record opposing natural gas development in New York, and both are among the top 10 recipients of Sea Change grants, according to an analysis of foundation records.

The Energy Foundation, at $64 million, was the top recipient of Sea Change grants from 2010 through 2015, the most recent year for which 990s are available.

The 2014 Senate report describes the Energy Foundation as a “pass through” public charity that donates to environmental activist groups such as the Sierra Club Foundation and Natural Resources Defense Council.

The idea behind a “pass through” organization, according to the Senate report, is “to create the appearance of a more diversified base of support” and to “shield” donors from accountability.

Between 1998 and 2015, the Energy Foundation paid 30,178 grants to 12,058 recipients totaling more than $1.2 billion, records show. Grantees included environmental groups active in opposing natural gas development of the Marcellus Shale.

The top recipient was Natural Resources Defense Council, with more than $35 million. The Sierra Club Foundation received more than $16 million. (The council has $236.5 million in net assets, while the foundation has $113.2 million in net assets.)

Recalling Cold War History

Paul Kengor, a Grove City College political science professor who has researched the history of Moscow’s manipulation of U.S. political figures, told The Daily Signal that he sees an “old Cold War powder keg that went dry suddenly being reignited.”

“What makes the current situation more nefarious today is the possibility—if this is indeed accurate—of Russian manipulation of domestic groups inside the United States and the willful cooperation of those domestic environmentalists,” Kengor, a biographer of Ronald Reagan, said in an email, adding:

In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan had one heck of a time trying to enlist the support of our Western allies in blocking the Siberian gas pipeline in Russia. Even [British Prime Minister] Margaret Thatcher balked; in fact, that’s an understatement: Thatcher was vehemently opposed because she wanted Britain to have the cheap Russian gas and wanted some British firms to have some of the construction contracts. The same was true for the West Germans and the French.

Ronald Reagan boldly proceeded almost alone in this effort in the 1980s. But here today … we have the extremely troubling possibility of our own U.S. citizens being targeted by the Russians for manipulation in undercutting our own domestic energy industry, our workers, and our citizens.

What stands out in terms of Cold War history and its relevance to contemporary questions of espionage is the role of Putin, warns Bonner Cohen, a senior fellow with the National Center for Public Policy Research, a Washington-based think tank that supports free market solutions to policy challenges.

“Putin, let’s not forget, is an old hand at using Western pressure groups to serve the Kremlin’s purposes,” Cohen said in an email.

“When, in the 1980s, the old Soviet Union was manipulating self-styled ‘peace groups’ in Western Europe and the U.S. in an effort to divide NATO and isolate the U.S., Putin was a mid-level KGB agent in East Germany.”

Cohen added:

Though that effort ultimately failed, Putin learned his lesson well. Then it was U.S. missiles to defend Western Europe that had to be demonized; today, it is U.S. oil and natural gas that are portrayed as a threat. In both cases, money changed hands, and scare tactics were the order of the day.

New Yorkers and High Energy Costs

New York residents continue to pay the price for Cuomo’s ban on drilling techniques that make it possible to access natural gas from the Marcellus Shale, laments Moreau, executive director of the American Petroleum Institute’s New York office.

“People who could have had inexpensive natural gas instead have had to pay very high electricity prices due to the cold snap this winter,” Moreau told The Daily Signal, “and many power generators were actually forced to burn oil instead of natural gas due to the constraints on natural gas.”

The 625 members of API, a national trade association, include major energy companies in the oil and gas industry.

Although New York is the fourth-largest consumer of natural gas in the nation, that natural gas primarily is imported from other states, Moreau said.

“If not for the pro-energy development policies of other states, New Yorkers would be bitterly freezing this winter,” she said.

The Daily Signal sought comment from Cuomo’s office to ask if the New York governor had concerns about allegations of Russian support for environmental groups active in his state. His office has not responded.

Cohen, of the National Center for Public Policy Research, said he sees a connection between Putin’s government in Moscow and influential U.S. environmental groups that is difficult to deny.

“The Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, and other advocacy groups may have their own ‘green’ reasons for opposing America’s realizing the energy potential of its abundant fossil fuels,” Cohen said in an email to The Daily Signal.  “At the same time, these groups know full well that they receive funding from the Sea Change Foundation and the Energy Foundation, both of which, according to a congressional report, are funded by Russian interests via a Bermuda-based shell company.”

Some green groups and Russia under Putin “have a common interest in demonizing fracking and related technologies that have tilted global energy markets in America’s favor,” Cohen said.

“Just as the shale revolution has been an economic godsend to millions of Americans, providing them with affordable electricity and transportation fuel, it has been a nightmare for Russia and environmental activists.”

Ken McIntyre contributed to this report.

COMMENTARY BY

Portrait of Kevin Mooney

Kevin Mooney

Kevin Mooney is an investigative reporter for The Daily Signal. Send an email to Kevin. Twitter: @KevinMooneyDC.

RELATED ARTICLE: PennEast Pipeline Backers Tout Lower Energy Prices in Fighting Well-Funded Green Groups

Dear Readers:

With the recent conservative victories related to tax cuts, the Supreme Court, and other major issues, it is easy to become complacent.

However, the liberal Left is not backing down. They are rallying supporters to advance their agenda, moving this nation further from the vision of our founding fathers.

If we are to continue to bring this nation back to our founding principles of limited government and fiscal conservatism, we need to come together as a group of likeminded conservatives.

This is the mission of The Heritage Foundation. We want to continue to develop and present conservative solutions to the nation’s toughest problems. And we cannot do this alone.

We are looking for a select few conservatives to become a Heritage Foundation member. With your membership, you’ll qualify for all associated benefits and you’ll help keep our nation great for future generations.

ACTIVATE YOUR MEMBERSHIP TODAY

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is of New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo speaking on Jan. 21st in Lower Manhattan, renewed a ban on fracking for natural gas in his state. (Photo: John Roca/Polaris/Newscom)

Let’s See the University of Cincinnati’s Hydraulic Fracturing Research

KEY TAKEAWAY: 

Recently, I wrote about hydraulic fracturing opponents being put in the uncomfortable position of funding a University of Cincinnati research project that found fracturing didn’t contaminate groundwater in Ohio’s Utica Shale.

New information has surfaced on how its research was funded. Based on this, the university is obligated to do more to publicize the study’s findings.

For those getting up to speed on the story, Energy In Depth posted a short clip [full video] from the University of Cincinnati’s Dr. Amy Townsend-Small’s presentation to local Ohio hydraulic fracturing opponents along with some key findings about hydraulic fracturing’s safety:

  • “All the samples fell within the clean water range and they did not find any changes over time either in any of our homes during the time series of fracking.”
  • “We never saw a significant increase in methane concentration after fracking well was drilled.”
  • Samples that were collected that were high in methane “clearly did not have a natural gas source.”
  • “Some of our highest observed methane concentrations were not near a fracking well at all.”
  • “There was no significant change in methane concentration over time, even as more and more natural gas wells were drilled in the area.”

Unfortunately Townsend-Small said her team’s research won’t be publicized further because the study’s funders stopped supporting them because of they didn’t like the findings.

“I’m really sad to say this but some of our funders, the groups that had given us funding in the past, were a little disappointed in our results,” Townsend-Small told the audience. “They feel that fracking is scary and so they were hoping our data could point to a reason to ban it.”

No press releases, no research papers, and no data released for the public or other researchers to dig deeper.

That’s not just disappointing; it looks to be in violation of the grant the University of Cincinnati used to fund its research.

The premise of the research project was to see what effects hydraulic fracturing has on drinking water by testing wells before, during, and after fracturing took place.

Here’s how the Ohio Environmental Council (no fans of hydraulic fracturing) described the project that earned one of its Environmental Achievement Awards in 2014:

This innovative research study is examining the potential effects of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on groundwater in Ohio’s Utica shale. Led by UC geologist Amy Townsend Small, this first-of-a-kind project is testing for the presence of methane (the primary component of natural gas) and its origins in groundwater and drinking water wells before, during, and after the onset of fracking.

Water samples were tested using a stable isotope ratio mass spectrometer to determine the source of methane found in the water. As Inside Climate News explained in a 2014 story:

Each sample is tested for methane, the main component of natural gas. Townsend-Small’s lab uses isotopic analysis to “fingerprint” the methane to determine if it’s “biogenic methane” (produced by microbes, and unrelated to natural gas drilling) or “fossil fuel methane” (methane found in oil, gas and coal deposits).

The University of Cincinnati purchased the mass spectrometer to do the testing in 2012 with a$400,000 grant from the National Science Foundation—i.e. taxpayers’ dollars. Townsend-Small’s team was one group of UoC researchers using the device.

The NSF grant’s mandate states unequivocally that findings gleaned from using the instrument be made publically available:

Results from research projects using this instrumentation will be disseminated through student and faculty presentations at national and international scientific meetings, publications in peer-reviewed journals, and online data repositories.

The University of Cincinnati should hold up its end and add to the public’s knowledge of hydraulic fracturing’s safety. With so much misinformation being pushed by hydraulic fracturing opponents, a short presentation in front of a few people in southeast of Canton, Ohio doesn’t cut it.

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is of a drilling rig sits on a natural gas pad in Pennsylvania. Photo credit: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg.

When Will the Presidential Candidates Debate America’s Energy Opportunity?

Presidential debates are supposed to cover the issues that will most affect voters.

In this respect, every Presidential debate so far has failed, because none have discussed America’s single greatest opportunity, an opportunity that can help solve 8 of our toughest challenges and “make America great again.” This is America’s energy opportunity.

America has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to combine American innovation, American resources, and American freedom to create American energy abundance and become the world’s energy superpower, overtaking Russia and the Middle East.

The question is: Will we seize this opportunity or will we squander it?

You’ve heard the expression “there’s no silver bullet” for our problems but America’s energy opportunity is a silver bullet.

Energy is a uniquely consequential issue because the energy industry is the industry that powers every other industry. By creating American energy abundance and becoming the world’s energy superpower we can tackle eight key challenges at once.

  1. Jump-start the American economy

    Our challenge: We have been mired in recession or near-recession for a decade—and without the energy industry it would be much, much worse.

    Our opportunity: The same industry that has kept us out of desperate trouble can bring us to new heights, by producing and selling energy around the world.

  2. Create millions of well-paying job opportunities

    Our challenge: It is difficult for many Americans to find jobs, in large part thanks to onerous restrictions on industry that have shut down many companies.

    Our opportunity: A ramp-up in the US energy industry would create millions of productive, well-paying jobs.

  3. Lower your cost of living

    Our challenge: The US cost of living has been going up for decades, and when the prices of energy goes up, transportation, heating, and electric bills place a large burden on American business.

    Our opportunity: Energy affordability can lower the cost of our direct energy bills, saving thousands of dollars a year—and, because energy is part of every industry, it can lower the cost of everything we buy and do.

  4. Increase our industrial competitiveness

    Our challenge: Due largely to onerous government policies, American manufacturing has declined for decades, leaving far worse employment opportunities for those trained for industrial jobs.

    Our opportunity: Energy affordability dramatically lowers one of the largest manufacturing costs, and combined with liberating industry from irrational costs, it can make America a manufacturing hub.

  5. Shrink the deficit

    Our challenge: America has a massive, ever-growing deficit and debt, caused by a combination of reckless spending and a sluggish economy.

    Our opportunity: Doubling American energy production is our easiest path to economic growth and increased tax revenues without tax increases; coupled with a commitment to cutting spending we can finally be on a path to solvency.

  6. Increase national security

    Our challenge: Nations around the world threaten us, and one major difficulty we have in dealing with them is their enormous influence in world energy markets, particularly oil and gas.

    Our opportunity: America’s energy leadership will give America and her allies energy security from Russia and the Middle East, protecting both economic stability and foreign policy leverage.

  7. Fight global poverty

    Our challenge: Much of the world is still massively impoverished.

    Our opportunity: Energy abundance will make it more affordable for countries to industrialize and in particular to alleviate one of the most crucial aspects of poverty: energy poverty.

  8. Improve environmental quality worldwide

    Our challenge: Environmental concerns are always crucial—we want to be as productive as we can be but also have a clean, healthy environment, which many say is impossible with fossil fuels, nuclear, and hydro.

    Our opportunity: Contrary to popular belief, the freedom to develop these sources won’t make our environment dirtier and our climate more dangerous, they will make our environment cleaner and our climate safer—because energy abundance dramatically improves environmental quality and climate safety.

Our politicians should be seizing all 8 of these opportunities. Instead, they are squandering them.

We can only create American energy abundance if we are free to choose, produce, transport the most abundant, affordable, reliable forms of energy—including hydrocarbons, nuclear, and hydro power.

Unfortunately, the Washington establishment has attacked every single one of these sources of energy abundance.

Instead of protecting the freedom to choose the best forms of energy, they are anti-choice and pro-subsidy.

Instead of protecting the freedom to produce the best forms of energy, they are anti-drilling and anti-mining.

Instead of protecting the freedom to transport energy where it is needed, they are anti-pipeline and anti-export terminals for coal, oil, and gas.

Instead of protecting the freedom to innovate in energy, they are anti-innovation in the most promising types of energy technologies, such as nuclear and fracking.

Washington could be making us into an energy superpower. Instead it is making us into an energy pawn.

How can we change course? We need to give our politicians an ultimatum: seize America’s energy opportunity—or lose our vote. That’s why I created a simple website, America’s Energy Opportunity, with an ultimatum you can sign and send to your elected officials.

If we do this together—by the hundreds, by the thousands, and ultimately by the millions—then our politicians and candidates will no longer be able to ignore America’s energy opportunity. And they just might seize it. Let’s demand that they do.

Disclosure: America’s Energy Opportunity has no affiliation with or funding from any party, industry, campaign, PAC, or other special interest. Its (very small) budget is entirely financed by my organization, the Center for Industrial Progress.

As always, if you’d like to suggest a new guest for Power Hour, or have me appear on your show, you can send me an email at support@industrialprogress.net, or just reply to this one.

RELATED ARTICLE: “The Economic Effects of Immediately Opening Federal Lands to Oil, Gas, and Coal Leasing,”

Four Fallacies that Fracktivists Use to Scare You

To make intelligent decisions about the future of energy, we need to think big-picture—to look carefully at the benefits and costs to human life of every course of action. Unfortunately, in today’s energy debate we are taught, with politically incorrect forms of energy such as fossil fuels, to only look at the negative picture—often highly exaggerated or taken out of context.

How do we identify and counter this cultural bias against fossil fuels? That’s the topic of my latest Forbes column:

There are at least four common fallacies used to discourage big-picture thinking and breed opposition to fossil fuels. These are things to be on the lookout for when you follow the cultural debate; they are everywhere, and all four are used to attack what might be the most important technology of our generation: shale energy aka “fracking.”

The largest fossil fuel controversy today, besides the broader climate change issue, is fracking—shorthand for hydraulic fracturing—one of several key technologies for getting oil and gas out of dense shale rock, resources that exist in enormous quantities but had previously been inaccessible at low cost.

Fracking has gotten attention, not primarily because of the productivity revolution it has created, but because of concerns about groundwater contamination. The leading source of this view is celebrity filmmaker Josh Fox’s Gasland (so-called) documentaries on HBO. Looking at how these movies have affected public opinion is an instructive exercise.

Here’s the Obama Administration’s Response to the Shale Boom: More Regulations

In the last few years, we’ve seen innovative companies combine old and new technologies to tap into shale deposits that were once unreachable. The resulting shale energy boom has made the United States the world’s top oil and natural gas producer while creating jobs and improving the nation’s energy security.

Now that we’ve moved from an age of energy scarcity to one of abundance, the Obama administration wants to add another layer of bureaucracy on energy producers.

The Interior Department released its long-awaited proposed regulations on hydraulic fracturing on federal lands, and on page 12 is this nugget:

Operators with leases on Federal lands must comply with both the BLM’s regulations and with state operating requirements, including state permitting and notice requirements to the extent they do not conflict with BLM regulations.

Federal regulators aren’t known for being speedy, as Katie Tubb and Nicolas Loris of the Heritage Foundation explain:

The [Bureau of Land Management] estimates that it took an average of 227 days simply to complete a drill application—just one step in the approval process to harvest oil and gas resources on federal lands. This is compared to 154 days in 2005 and the average 30 days it takes state governments to do the same.

As a result, the number of acres of federal lands leased for energy development has been declining.

BLM data of onshore acres of federal land leased.

Acres leased on all federal onshore land. Data source: Bureau of Land Management.

Now, don’t think states are failing to regulate hydraulic fracturing. If Pennsylvania is any indication, it’s far from the truth. Check out my favorite scene from the documentary Fracknation:

“There are numerous permits you have to get before doing anything” on the Marcellus Shale, Range Resources’ Tony Gaudlip said.

The only thing these duplicative, redundant federal regulations will do is ensure less of our energy abundance is available for our energy-hungry economy.

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is of a pumpjack in Los Angeles, Calif. Photo credit: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg.

It’s a Very Complex World

In the 1980s I devoted a lot of effort to debunking a torrent of Green lies about pesticides and herbicides. This was before the Greens latched onto “global warming” which has since become “climate change” and the subject of a recent White House report filled with dire predictions of planetary doom and disaster.

Nobody died from using pesticides or herbicides in the 1980s or since unless they drank it straight from the bottle. When I talked with farmers they would frequently say “Do you think I would put this stuff on the crops my family eats if I thought it would harm them?” The Greens have always attacked anything that would increase crop growth by limiting the real harm of weeds or the predation of insect species. These days genetically modified seeds are a target for environmentalists though studies have amply demonstrated their crops are safe to eat.

Less food means less people and that has always been a major goal of the people leading the nation’s and the world’s major environmental organizations. The same formula applies to denying energy to people worldwide.

As for pesticides, we all use them to keep our homes and workplaces free of insects that are the key vectors for all manner of diseases. In a world before their invention, millions died from mosquito-borne diseases such as Yellow Fever, Dengue Fever, Encephalitis, West Nile virus and Malaria. Millions still die from malaria and these diseases because one of the most effective pesticides ever invented was DDT and it was banned because of the lies Rachel Carson told in her iconic, environmental book, “Silent Spring.”

Cover - Smaller FasterThe world is a very complex place and it is essential to have a fundamental understanding of how it works. One of the best new books on this subject is Robert Bryce’s “Smaller Faster Lighter Denser Cheaper” ($27.99, Public Affairs). What Bryce doesn’t know about energy is probably not worth knowing and, happily, he has authored several books on the subject. His latest provides wonderful and useful insights to the world we share today with seven billion other human beings.

Bryce quotes Edward Abbey, “one of the patron saints of American environmentalism” who, in 1971, said, “We humans swarm over the planet like a plague of locusts, multiplying and devouring. There is no justice, sense or decency in this mindless global breeding spree, this obscene anthropoid fecundity, this industrialized mass production of babies and bodies, ever more bodies and babies.”

This is the kind of thinking that is the hidden justification for genocides. Not surprisingly the leaders of the Nazi regime were all dedicated environmentalists. At the heart of much that passes for environmentalism is an attack on the energy sources that enhance or lives and agricultural practices that feed us.

It’s not by accident that environmental groups all trumpet the same doomsday lies at the same time. Their leaders get together to coordinate their efforts and the current one is aimed at what they call “de-growth”, the reduction of economic growth by any means.

With President Obama blathering about “climate change” threats, it should not surprise anyone to conclude that the horrible economic conditions he has imposed on our nation was not an accident, nor that he focuses on thwarting the provision of energy, the most vital component of economic growth.

“The prescriptions put forward by the degrowth crowd,” says Bryce, “are familiar. Nuclear energy is bad. Genetically modified foods are bad. Coal isn’t just bad, it’s awful. Oil is bad. Natural gas—and the process often used to produce it, hydraulic fracturing is bad.” And it is no surprise that the Environmental Protection Agency—the most anti-growth governmental agency—has just announced steps to require the disclosure of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, a technology that has been in use for more than a half century and one that has unlocked access to vast reserves of natural gas and oil.

It is essential to understand who the enemy is and it is groups like the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, and the Worldwatch Institute, to name just a few.

The next time some environmental spokesman is busy spreading fear, Bryce says it is necessary to keep in mind that “Their outlook rejects innovation and modern forms of energy. It rejects business and capitalism. We must move past the climate of fear to one of optimism. We must move past fear of technology to an understanding that technology isn’t the problem; it’s the solution.”

© Alan Caruba, 2014

Obama administration chooses environmentalists over unions on Keystone XL and fracking

While some environmental groups applauded the latest delay of the Keystone XL pipeline, unions whose members would be building it ripped the administration. Sean McGarvey, President of North America’s Building Trades Unions, AFL-CIO, called it “a cold, hard slap in the face for hard working Americans who are literally waiting for President Obama’s approval and the tens of thousands of jobs it will generate.”

Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) general president Terry O’Sullivan was more colorful, saying, “It’s clear the administration needs to grow a set of antlers, or perhaps take a lesson from Popeye and eat some spinach.”

The Keystone XL pipeline isn’t the only energy issue dividing anti-energy environmental groups and unions who want jobs for their members. Over the weekend, the Associated Press reported that development of shale energy using hydraulic fracturing had strong union support in Pennsylvania:

“The shale became a lifesaver and a lifeline for a lot of working families,” said Dennis Martire, the mid-Atlantic regional manager for the Laborers’ International Union, or LIUNA, which represents workers in numerous construction trades.

Martire said that as huge quantities of natural gas were extracted from the vast shale reserves over the last five years, union work on large pipeline jobs in Pennsylvania and West Virginia has increased significantly. In 2008, LIUNA members worked about 400,000 hours on such jobs; by 2012, that had risen to 5.7 million hours.

In contrast, environmental groups like the Natural Resource Defense Council who patted the administration on the back for the Keystone XL delay, strongly oppose hydraulic fracturing.

In his Keystone XL statement, McGarvey head of the building trades union asked a good question:

Why does President Obama continue to side with radicals instead of the middle class that, twice, put him office, and supports this project by a significant majority?

Out of work American union members would like to know.

[H/T Lachlan Markay at the Washington Free Beacon.]

EDITORS NOTE: The featured photo of a rig drilling for natural gas at a hydraulic fracturing site in Pennsylvania is courtesy of photographer Ty Wright/Bloomberg.

ACTION ALERT: Stand Up for Florida Energy Independence!

Pictured: New oil rig, North of Gum Slough, Big Cypress Swamp, Florida circa 1935

Oil and natural gas have been safely produced in Florida since the 1940s, with over 4.6 billion gallons from Southwest Florida area alone. Floridians consume over 26 million gallons of gasoline and diesel per day, and the majority of the state’s electricity is generated from natural gas. Florida has a long history of responsible energy production, which can continue for decades to come, enhancing the energy security for Floridians and all Americans.

Florida Energy Citizens (FEC) states, “An oil exploration well is under consideration in the Collier County, Florida Big Cypress Swamp area. The proposed well has been approved by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s following reviews by the U.S. EPA, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Parks Service, Florida Department of Transportation, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Florida Department of State Historical Resources Division, Florida Division of State Lands and the FDEP Environmental Resources Permitting Program Division, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council, and the South Florida Water Management District.”

Opponents of this particular energy development, according to FEC, are spreading a variety of falsehoods about hydraulic fracturing, even though the permit involved does not involve the technology. As the facts clearly show, however, fracking does not harm drinking water. This is something that is acknowledged by a variety of experts, including EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. As she points out, “There’s nothing inherently dangerous in fracking that sound engineering practices can’t accomplish.”

FEC notes, “Oil and natural gas has been safely produced in Big Cypress Swamp area over the past 70 years. There has not been even a single instance where fracking in this area (or anywhere around the nation) has been proven to harm groundwater. Further, the location is an agricultural field which is perfect for siting as it is away from the more sensitive everglades area and impacts are reasonable in respect to the nature, character, and location of the affected property.”

There is no reason for the Big Cypress Swamp Advisory Committee to rule against the oil exploration well permit already issued by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. The facts show that this is merely another project in the area’s long history of safe energy production. We need this energy production to continue in order to grow our community’s economy.

FEC warns, “Floridians need to see through the misinformation about fracking and approve this permit.”

If you wish you may send an email to the Big Cypress Swamp Advisory Committee. Click here to tell the members of the Big Cypress Swamp Advisory Committee your position on energy production in Florida!

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