News 9 Investigates: Russian Interference In The Oil And Gas Industry

Friday, August 10th 2018, 10:41 pm

For close to two years now, we've heard almost nonstop talk of Russia's meddling in the 2016 Presidential election. But what you may not have heard is Russia has also been interfering in something that hist close to home here in Oklahoma. 

Even in the fact of documented evidence of election interference, Russian President Vladimir Putin says it didn't happen. 

While it hasn't received the same attention, a House Science Committee report released in March documents similar efforts by Russia to use social media to influence US domestic energy policy. 

"It is a form of economic sabotage they've been trying to perpetrate against our oil and gas industries," said Representative Frank Lucas. 

Lucas is vice chair of the committee that produced the report. 

":Literally, it appears, between 2015 and 2017, the Russians and their minions, have sent out somewhere in excess of nine thousand electronic messages using social media, attacking the US energy industry. 

Facebook posts encouraging protests of the Dakota Access and other pipelines. Posts intended to stir up anger on both sides of the climate change debate, and posts to create distrust of oil and gas, and specifically of fracking. 

The reports say, to accounts set up by the Internet Research Agency, a company established by the Russian government to spread Russian propaganda. 

"There's multiple angles why they would do it," said Oklahoma Oil and Gas association industry spokesman Chad Warmington. 

Warmington said the main reason is economic, to disrupt the US production boom, which is threatening Russia's dominant position in the European gas market. 

As far back as 2015, Oklahoma oilman Harold Hamm told an audience in Chicago, "Russia's spent a great deal of money over here to cause a panic in the United States over fracking."

Hamm declined to be interviewed for this story, but he and others in the industry say normal debate over US energy policy is perfectly appropriate.

However, Warmington said, "When you have foreign governments coming in and trying to suppress an industry, and frankly, suppress a nation, who's providing economic and energy security to other nations, and the stabilizing force that is, that's a huge problem that all Americans and Oklahomans ought to be concerned about." 

The report does not call for sanctions against Russia, but does call on Americans to be more aware of the tactics Russia has used, and thus more skeptical of divisive posts on social media.