Today, let’s put on philosopher hats. I have no idea what they look like, presumably some sort of antisocial adornment that makes sense to those that examine the nature of truth, existence, knowledge, and ethics. Given that background, perhaps on some days, they wear a colander, on others a wooden box, or maybe something made out of twigs and leaves.
If you think I’ve taken leave of my senses, I’ll grant you that – you could be right. But I’m not alone. More frighteningly, so have governments.
The annals of news, energy or otherwise, require some sort of framework upon which to make sense. No matter what your political stripe is, one expects commentary that in some way ties to reality. If someone asks a politician “What do you plan to do about the deficit?” we may expect feebleness or stupidity, but we will expect an answer that in some political or philosophical framework will make sense. If said politician answers the question with “I’ll eat bananas until I vomit” we don’t know how to process it.
We’ve come to that point in the news. There is no other way to make sense of energy commentary. Two examples make this point more eloquently than an entire philosophy department could.
In Michigan, Governor Witmer is engaged in an assault on Enbridge’s Line 5, a pipeline that is crucial to parts of the US midwest and Ontario. It supplies propane to upper Michigan and jet fuel to many airports. A business organization recently pegged the economic fallout for midwestern US states at almost $21 billion if the pipeline is shut-in, and that’s just in four US states – never mind southern Ontario. The pipeline supplies heating fuel to 65 percent of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It is kind of a big deal.
But Witmer has ordered it shut down, calling it a ‘ticking time bomb’. Call in the philosophers. What exactly makes it a time bomb? Apparently, the fact that it could leak. But that logic then must be applied to every pipeline of a similar vintage that goes near water – and there are hundreds of thousands of miles of those. Furthermore, if an industrial object is a ticking time bomb because it might fail, then every industrial object is a ticking time bomb. How many things can leak or explode in, say Pittsburgh, never mind the whole US?
Hang on, it gets incomprehensibly dumber than that. Back in February, that very same Governor declared a state of emergency in the state – because there was a potential shortage of the very fuel that Line 5 brings to Michigan’s citizens. “With a cold wave gripping the country, our top priority right now is ensuring that Michigan families and businesses have the home heating fuel we need to stay warm,” she unfathomably blurted out of her blowhole. Her comment wasn’t unfathomable, it made perfect sense. But imagine if she’s been efficient in her press conference – what if she’d given this speech, and since everyone was gathered, decided to give an update on how efforts were going to kill off the pipeline? How does one reconcile an adult simultaneously declaring the sanctity of pipeline supply as a top priority at the same time she is trying to shut the pipeline down? Where are the philosophers? Get those damn birds nests off your heads and get over here, there’s work to do.
Then, it gets even more strange. Biden’s administration has somehow ignored every plea from our devilishly handsome leader’s entourage to leave Line 5 alone. That alone is dumbfounding; can’t they see how charismatic he is? Biden’s team has offered nothing more than a gigantic shrug at the prospect of Line 5 closing; I guess they have a planet to save.
Then it gets even weirder. Really. A few days ago, a group of hackers infiltrated the company that runs the Colonial Pipeline, causing it to be shut in, and injecting new insanity into the conversation in ways I couldn’t even dream of.
First, I received a panicky news release in my inbox: “[New York] CONGRESSMAN GARBARINO TO JOIN TRI-STATE GAS STATION OWNERS TO DISCUSS CYBERATTACK THAT SHUT DOWN PIPELINE SUPPLING EAST COAST” the news release headline blared. The release’s content was sadly on par for the quality of current energy discussions: “The Colonial Pipeline that carries over 100 million barrels of oil from Texas to New York metro a day is temporarily shut down after the company was hit with a cyberattack.” Well, no, the Colonial Pipeline does not carry 100 million barrels of oil per day from Texas to New York; that amount is more than the entire world currently consumes. I wonder how the Tri-State discussion is going, if the dialogue is like this, like a hundred chickens discussing the meaning of life in a hen house with a dozen foxes.
Then one has to wonder, is Michigan’s Upper Peninsula so despised that it is up for sacrifice, or is somehow irrelevant? Because while Biden’s team does not care one whit if it has heating fuel for next winter, it most certainly is fretting that the US SE might run short of gasoline this summer. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo declared, in response to the shut down of the Colonial Pipeline, “It’s an all hands on deck effort right now.” A top Republican on the Biden administration’s Energy Committee echoed the concern: “The implication for this, for our national security, cannot be overstated. And I promise you, this is something that Republicans and Democrats can work together on,” said U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy.
Well, isn’t that sweet. Working together so nicely because “Retail fuel experts including the American Automobile Association said an outage lasting several days could have significant impacts on regional fuel supplies, particularly in the southeastern United States.” and because Colonial’s “extensive pipeline network serves major U.S. airports, including Atlanta’s Hartsfield Jackson Airport, the world’s busiest by passenger traffic.” Not a single sighting of any ticking time bombs. You Michigan bastards can freeze in the dark, but don’t dare mess with Florida’s gasoline supply in May.
I’ve also been inundated with offers to talk to security experts about this hack attack on a pipeline. It’s such a big deal even the hackers are back-pedalling, saying they just want money, they didn’t mean to cause chaos. You know the world is truly &%$*ed up when unknown and unknowable hackers are more concerned about causing chaos than an elected governor. Maybe I should point all those security experts to Michigan; they might find a lot to ponder. The crazies that threatened to kidnap Witmer must have either driven her insane or had an impact on her philosophy.
However we got here, we are now in a place where this insanity doesn’t even register. Perhaps it’s the clogged bus-station toilet that is modern media. Perhaps it’s the public’s growing indifference to being screamed at to stop destroying the planet while they fill up the SUV on the way home and ponder what sort of leftover crap is going to be on the table tonight.
We are living in a world where it is like a kindergarten class has been given the authority to implement national new traffic laws. You can complain all you like that it makes no sense to have ice cream dispensers in the middle of the freeway, but you will be shouting into the void. It’s all fun and games and philosophy until someone gets hurt. Coming soon to the end of an empty pipeline near you.