The ransomware attack that shut down the Colonial Pipeline threatens fuel shortages from Alabama to Washington DC, illustrating the vulnerability of aging U.S. energy infrastructure, experts say. Pipeline operators say they will begin slowly restarting the pipeline today. So-called “legacy assets” like the 40-year-old Colonial Pipeline crisscross the country with post-hoc digital technology “that’s been bolted on top,” Lev Simonovich, a vice president at Siemens Energy specializing in security, told the Washington Post. As witnessed in Texas and the Great Plains during the February freeze, unexpected shutdowns of pipelines and refineries can have catastrophic results.
Experts stressed that modernizing the U.S. energy system was critical to protect against cyberattack vulnerabilities. The pipeline’s shut down makes landlocked Southern cities, like Atlanta with its major airport, especially at risk of gas and jet fuel shortages. In an effort to alleviate fuel shortages caused by the shutdown of the pipeline responsible for transporting about 45% of the fuel consumed on the East Coast, the Biden administration waived daily driving time limits for truck drivers delivering fuel to the affected region. (Washington Post $, Bloomberg $, NBC, Wall Street Journal $, Utility Dive, The Hill, E&E $, Earther)