The DarkSide. Ponder This.

An Energy Executive’s View. A Few Items On My Mind. “I’ve Got This.”

  • Along with the rest of the craziness happening worldwide, the Southeast United States endured a week-long gasoline nightmare with Russian hackers taking down the Colonial Pipeline supply lines. Gas stations out of fuel, long lines of cars waiting to fill their tanks, and tempers flaring from Pensacola to Roanoke. After many days of uneasiness, it seems the Colonial Pipeline, after reports of the company having to pay a “ransomware” up to $5M, is back up and running, with fuel trucks back on the road hopefully providing a level of normalcy.

We are all asking questions about IT infrastructure and redundancy, and how hackers from Russia named DarkSide could use the internet to shut down systems running Colonial’s fuel pipeline. The exact methodology of how hackers like DarkSide accomplish this needs to be answered by a much higher authority, but the reality of the situation poses even more questions of greater magnitude – and that is our electrical grid system. For a much better take on the subject of electricity, I asked my friend Tracy, an executive with a leading energy provider, to give us her insight into the world of power and sustainability:

We need to take this Colonial Pipeline hack seriously and we need to prioritize protecting our critical energy resources. ‘We’ includes both the Federal Government as well as the private sector. My focus/job is more on our electric grid and renewable energy dependency. I live in Texas and we learned a hard lesson on the value of electricity to provide not only power, but to pump natural gas and water during what we now so fondly call “Snowpocalypse.” Hopefully most will not have to learn the lesson the way we did.

What I think we need to remain focused on is the balance between green and brown power and the importance of both. Our reliability on green power is growing across the U.S. and I think that is the right direction in which to move. We do need to consider the threats of relying on renewables (Wind and Solar). What happens when there is a cloud cover? The wind stops blowing? Or hackers shut down the wind and solar farms? We rely on grid power. I think we need all of it so we have more than one resource to rely on and people are not left without electricity. It doesn’t just keep us from having the lights on, it costs lives.

One final note, if you haven’t read “Ready Player One,” I highly recommend it and I don’t mean watch the movie…in the book the entire premise is the crash of the electric grid. The setting is: In the year 2045, the world is gripped by an energy crisis and global warming, causing widespread social problems and economic stagnation. 2045? 2025? And that’s MY take.

As Tracy mentions, we have all experienced the uncomfortable and sometimes dire situation of being without power, for as little as an hour or sometimes for days. Heavy storm systems and other variables have shut down power grids around the world so what happens when the same happens ‘on demand,’ or in other words a hacker like DarkSide uses keystrokes to target a specific city’s electrical grids? Unlikely to happen?

I know, it sounds like a plot from a Bruce Willis action movie, but The Department of Homeland Security has recently disclosed new details about the extent to which Russia has infiltrated “critical infrastructure” like American power plants, water facilities, and gas pipelines. So while we experience fuel shortages from a hack of pipeline, the taking down of multiple electrical grid systems for long periods of time would disrupt every part of our daily lives. Many of us previously shrugged our shoulders at the term “Cyber Warfare.” The event last week quickly reminded us that the term is very real.

Things To Ponder:

  • Has anyone looked into Bob Baffert’s horse training methodology?
  • Delta Air Lines requiring all new hires to be vaccinated. Questions?
  • How good are the Atlanta Hawks? Very.
  • A BOLO (you know what a BOLO is) – for a Tiger roaming Houston, Texas.
  • 2,000 years of conflict in the Middle East – will it ever end?
  • Mask off. The CDC thinks the honor system will work?
  • ARod and JLo are finally quiet. Good luck Ben.
  • A Friends reunion. Yawn.
  • A Tim Tebow and Urban Meyer reunion. Again a yawn.
  • For a final note, a feel good moment. If you are having a tough day watch this video…and remember “I’ve Got This.”
“I’ve Got This.”

Adios, pay it forward, stay safe and have a Funday Sunday!

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