Last week America was tested and found wanting. Cyber terrorists shut down the Colonial Pipeline system serving a major portion of southeastern states and reportedly collected a $5 million ransom. Some gas stations remain without fuel to sell, motorists still search for gas and wait in long lines just as we did 40-plus years ago after Arab states quadrupled the cost of oil almost overnight.
Regardless of the smirk on the face of the energy secretary who commented that if people drove electric cars this wouldn't be a problem, the fact remains that fossil fuels provide more than 90 percent of our transportation energy. People were financially harmed and continue to be hammered by escalating energy prices.
This didn't have to happen, and American corporations and politicians have been warned for years about the vulnerability of our energy/financial systems and every commercial activity reliant upon electricity and the computers that holds our civilization together.
Peter Pry, the executive director of the EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse) Task Force and a member of the U.S. National Strategy Forum warned that what happened with the Colonial Pipeline was a test of Biden by the Kremlin. The Kremlin warned Biden some weeks ago when a crisis was developing over the Ukraine (Russia had deployed more than 100,000 troops on Ukraine's border) for the United States to not interfere. Spokespersons for the Russian RT and Sputnik media groups said they could shut down Florida, Washington, or a portion of any city at will.
In the event of a cyber war with America, Russia is much better prepared and more capable of inflicting massive, if not catastrophic damage on America. Pry believes that the shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline by the Russian-based terrorist group, "DarkSide" (just three weeks after warning Biden not to interfere in Ukraine/Russian conflict) was a warning and demonstration to Biden of Russian capabilities and intent. Biden is being tested by a resurgent, aggressive Kremlin, along with other bad actors: Iran, North Korea, and especially China. The perception of weakness, indecisiveness and diminishment of American military/industrial power and political commitment will be challenged in the near future, likely within this decade.
Of growing threats to American national security, none is so chilling as the vulnerability of the electrical grid. A cyberattack shutting down the electrical grid for 330 million people would inflict total chaos and breakdown of society. Our grid is aging, vulnerable, and woefully underfunded for maintenance and hardening against external threats. We saw this in California when 100-year old power transmission lines started massive wildfires or when a winter storm in Texas left people in the dark/cold for a week. Those were localized events; a high-altitude EMP burst via ballistic missiles fired from North Korea, Iran, Russia, or China could darken the nation for a year or more. The EMP Task Force estimates that more than 90 percent of the American population would die from starvation or societal breakdown. Every electrical device would shut down, burned out by a massive electromagnetic pulse. Cars wouldn't start, water pumps, sewer treatment plants, computers, radio/TV would all be down. Everything electrical would be fried. Stores carry about a three-day supply of food; starvation would occur rapidly as there would be no trucks to re-stock food supplies. All emergency services would be out of commission. We'd be on our own; chaos would ensue.
A key component of our electrical transmission system is the massive transformers at power stations/substations. Pry stated it takes 18 months to build a transformer, and they aren't manufactured in America. With our economy devastated by an EMP/cyberattack, how would we contract/purchase replacements?
A great deal of ink has been used extolling the "existential threat" of climate change, urging rapid conversion to an all-electric economy, foreswearing use of fossil fuels. Left out are unpleasant facts, such as wind/solar systems require the massive use of fossil fuels for their construction, even in their components, such as windmill blades and lubricants or the impracticality of private electric-driven transportation. We don't have enough power generation capability to support such an economy, and we're dismantling power facilities without consideration for the future.
We have overseas commitments we can't ignore, such as defense of Taiwan and South Korea. "Who cares?" says the isolationist? The bulk of the computer microchips that operate the hundred micro-computers in our cars and everything else are from microchip production facilities, and we aren't building them here. The rare-earth metals used in their manufacture are mostly mined in China and Africa; attempts to mine them here are mired in legal battles. It takes two years to certify a mining operation.
We're chasing unicorns and pixie dust in our quest to build a perfect world. We're facing multiple, real existential threats that threatens our survival in this decade, not a hundred years hence, the hyperbole of climate alarmists notwithstanding.
We need to wake up, not "woke" with self-absorbed obsession, but return to the reality of facing a world filled with ravenous wolves that would annihilate our republic, if we don't do it to ourselves first. Δ
Al Fonzi had a 35-year military career, serving in both the Vietnam and Iraq wars. Respond with a letter to the editor emailed firstname.lastname@example.org.