Opinion

How American Environmentalists Are Fighting Russia’s New Cold War

Paul Driessen Senior Policy Advisor, Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow

DC Environmental Network activists swarmed the White House recently, demanding that President Obama “save bees from pesticides.” They claim honeybees and bee colonies are threatened by a new family of pesticides that are actually safer than those used previously – and from colony collapses that appear to be abating, and that scientific evidence shows are unrelated to pesticide use.

The stunt was part of a broader campaign, funded significantly by a source that is little interested in rescuing bees, rain forests or polar bears. Its interests are geopolitical.

A new Environmental Policy Alliance report reveals that Russia is extending its influence through green groups, further hobbling America’s energy and agricultural sectors. The watchdog group has traced $55 million from Russian energy giants into the Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

The $13.4-billion-a-year U.S. big green industry wants to ban chemical treatments that keep crops from being destroyed by plagues of insects. It also opposes coal for electricity generation, onshore and offshore drilling, and hydraulic fracturing that has made the United States #1 in oil and natural gas production.

Its lobbying and protests are so effective that Mr. Obama even ignored his big labor allies, to block a Keystone XL pipeline project that would have created some 40,000 jobs and would carry U.S. and Canadian oil more efficiently and safely than trucks and railroad cars.

Soviet spies have long stolen our most sensitive military and industrial secrets. Today the Russian bear is undermining our economy by writing checks to activist groups that promote anti-capitalist themes and use unfounded environmental claims to advance anti-technology agendas.

That money is augmenting millions of taxpayer dollars that these pressure groups receive annually from government agencies. They abuse their tax-exempt status, by routinely engaging in overtly political operations, and leave more families to freeze jobless in the dark during long, cold winters that manmade global warming was supposed to make ancient history.

By granting them tax-exempt status, taxpayers also finance “charitable” and “educational” foundations that use their billions of dollars in assets to bankroll environmentalist disinformation and attack campaigns on these and other issues.

The Alliance found that the Russian financial links were intentionally obscured. But tax records establish that the Bermuda-based Wakefield Quin company used convoluted schemes to transfer money to these U.S. environmentalist groups through Rosneft, the Russian-government-owned oil and gas giant that is one of Wakefield’s largest clients.

These allegations are hardly surprising, the Alliance notes. Wakefield managing director Nicholas Hoskins was previously implicated in a money laundering scheme in 2008, with criminal charges leveled against one of his other British Virgin Islands ventures.

Russia’s motives are obvious. Fracking has battered the Russian economy. In the past year, surging U.S. production caused oil prices to plunge from $110 per barrel to $50. Vladimir Putin derives two-thirds of his country’s export revenues from oil and gas, Russia’s government coffers have starved, and the ruble’s value has plummeted. Earlier this year, Russia’s finance minister predicted a $45-billion budget deficit, unless oil price trends reversed.

What better way to achieve this reversal than to outlaw fracking, block the Keystone XL pipeline, and shackle America’s oil and gas revolution? A few million invested in activist groups could have a $45-billion payoff.

Mr. Putin is also hostile toward American agriculture. Last August, to retaliate for U.S. sanctions over Russia’s Ukrainian incursions, he imposed a one-year ban on importing U.S. agricultural products worth $1.3 billion. Funding groups that agitate for pesticide bans helps to handicap farming in America.

On March 6, the NRDC sued EPA, demanding a ban on glyphosate, one of the world’s most popular weed killers, in the name of protecting butterflies. It also wants EPA to ban neonicotinoid seed treatments, to “protect honeybees.”

“Neonics” have become a vitally important class of pesticide, not just because they’re effective, but because they are designed to be safe for anything other than bugs that eat treated plants in the early stages of their growth. Bees and butterflies don’t feed on plant tissue, so the seed treatments don’t affect them.

Moreover, the real threats to honeybees are viruses and pathogens that have affected numerous hives. For example, “blood sucking” Varroa destructor mites carry nearly 20 bee viruses and diseases, and parasitic phorid flies, nosema intestinal fungi and the tobacco ringspot virus also cause significant colony losses.

A neonic ban would cost U.S. consumers over $4 billion a year, as insects wreak havoc on fields, without saving a single bee. In fact, a ban would force farmers to use more pesticides that really are toxic to bees. But then, this isn’t really about the environment, as yet another campaign demonstrates.

Environmental activists have also joined with Mr. Putin’s propaganda machine to agitate against genetically modified foods. These food technologies could feed the world, end childhood Vitamin A deficiency and blindness, and save wildlife habitats by enabling farmers to grow much more food on less acreage. But radical greens call them “dangerous.”

Starvation is far more dangerous than even the most ludicrous “risks” attributed to GMOs, just as malaria is far deadlier than pesticides that big green opposes for disease control. Because it perpetuates squalid poverty and joblessness, energy deprivation is infinitely worse than drilling or fracking.

Russian funding of big green environmentalism adds new meaning to the term “watermelon environmentalists” – green on the outside, and red on the inside.

Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org), author of Eco-Imperialism: Green Power – Black Death, and coauthor of Cracking Big Green: Saving The World from the Save-the-Earth Money Machine.