Former White House national security expert Fiona Hill testified Thursday that Russian president Vladimir Putin viewed American fracking as a "great threat to Russian interests"; top contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination, however, have called for an outright ban of the practice.
Under questioning from Rep. Mike Conaway (R., Tex.) at a hearing on the impeachment of President Donald Trump, Hill agreed that a ban on fracking would play into Putin's hands.
"In November 2011, I actually sat next to Vladimir Putin in a conference in which he made precisely that point," she said. "It was the first time that he had actually done so to a group of American journalists and experts who were brought to something called the Valdai Discussion Club. So he started in 2011 making it very clear that he saw American fracking as a great threat to Russian interests."
Hill added everyone in attendance was struck by how much Putin stressed the issue at the time. Putin has continued to oppose American fracking, which has transformed the U.S. into the world's top oil and gas producer and reduced Russia's influence in the global energy market. It has also helped reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a goal of climate change advocates.
However, 6 of the 10 Democrats on Wednesday night's debate stage—including Sens. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.), and Kamala Harris (D., Calif.)—support a ban on fracking, citing its supposedly negative environmental effects.
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a drilling and extraction method for obtaining oil and gas from underground shale rocks, using a high-pressure fluid mixture to break them apart. It has drawn criticism from environmental activists, who claim it causes pollution, contaminates drinking water, lowers nearby property values, and causes earthquakes.
The Washington Free Beacon reported this year on studies that showed a fracking ban—while highly unlikely to be implemented even by a Democratic president—would kill millions of jobs and spike American living and energy costs.
International Energy Agency executive director Fatih Birol said in September a ban would be a threat to U.S. security.
"Up to recently, before the U.S. shale gas revolution, Russia was the country which was dominating alone the gas markets, but the U.S. coming in the picture, there are options for consumers, better for [U.S.] security," he said. "Just banning this would not be good news, not only for Americans but also for Europeans."