Colonial Pipeline, a 5,500 mile pipeline that supplies the Southeast with refined fuels has been hit with a ransomware attack. The line has shut down. As the shutdown continues the supplies of fuel to some filling stations are getting low. (It is not just automobiles, either. America Airlines’ nonstop from Charlotte to Honolulu will stop at Dallas-Fort Worth where fuel supplies haven’t been disrupted. This to save fuel in Charlotte.)

Gasoline line just after midnight, 5/12/21, Charlotte

As people get excited and go out to fill up their cars, that exacerbates the issue. I recall during the gasoline shortages of the past that anytime everyone tries to fill up, there will be a shortage whether of not there is a pipeline issue.

My experience says that the pipeline issue reinforces several aspects of our energy system.

It will happen again, but in a new way. Energy infrastructure is changing fast. Change brings new security and new hacking opportunities. Check this expert: “I am not surprised that this happened. It was realistically only a matter of time before there was a major critical infrastructure ransomware incident.” (Image right)

Individuals need to take an interest in energy, but lots is beyond their control. ECC has said how important it is to learn about energy and use it wisely. Still true. Customers make better decisions about their own energy use if they understand the whole system. Energy is the biggest and smallest of industries – from huge oil fields and power plants to your plug.

Customers should push policymakers and utilities. I saw this line in a PBS report (image right) about the pipeline issue: “…potentially, there may need to be the need for regulation, particularly of components of critical infrastructure … And that will be hopefully the subject of public debate.”  Here’s the need from policymakers – remember that policy debate is not cyber security. Piling on regulation is not the answer to all ills. (Hammer/nail.) Work with industry and get the job done.

A friend once said he turns over every problem and finds an opportunity. An event like the Colonial hack is an opportunity to unify across government and industry to solve a problem rather than push agendas or add complexity. Customers can make that viewpoint heard.