Last week’s cyberattack on one of the nation’s most important fuel pipelines, the Colonial Pipeline, is already beginning to cause shortages in the Southeastern part of the country, and with it higher gas prices.
A Russian ransomware group called Darkside has claimed responsibility for the attack, which caused the Colonial Pipeline to shut down completely last Friday. The FBI has said that Darkside was indeed responsible. The company that owns the Pipeline has said that it hopes to have it back online by the end of the week.
The White House, meanwhile, issued a fact sheet Tuesday, promising what it called an “All-of-Government Effort to Address Colonial Pipeline Incident.”
“The Administration is focused on avoiding potential energy supply disruptions to impacted communities, the U.S. military, and other facilities reliant on gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and other refined petroleum products. The Administration is continually assessing the pipeline shutdown’s impact on the U.S. fuel supply, as well as what additional actions are available to mitigate the impact of the pipeline’s shutdown,” the White House’s statement said.
However, according to one prominent commentator, the shutdown of the pipeline is in fact consistent with the president’s energy policies.
Fox News host Tucker Carlson, in his monologue Tuesday night, blamed the Biden Administration’s policies for the shortages and price spike, and stated that the White House “approves of” the shortages, in accordance with their energy plans.
“In case 2021 didn’t remind you enough of a grimmer version of the 1970s, we now have serious gas shortages, in a country that just recently was energy independent,” Carlson said on the show, per a Fox News transcript. “All along the east coast of the country today, people couldn't fill up their cars. The footage looks like Venezuela.”
In a flourish of conspiracism, Carlson then stated that “the official explanation is that some mysterious gang of cybercriminals hacked the software at a major American fuel supplier called Colonial Pipeline.”
“What is this about?” Carlson went on to say. “Well, you know. On some level — let’s be honest about it — the White House approves of this disaster.”
Carlson’s argument is that the gas stations being closed is consistent with the Biden Administration’s policies of transitioning away from fossil fuels towards clean energy. Biden, after all, had cancelled the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline on the first day of his presidency.
“Yes, some gas stations are closed tonight. But soon enough, the lunatics plan to close them all — every gas station in the entire United States, shuttered forever, to make way for some new, as-yet-undefined means of transportation that will magically replace the gasoline engines we’ve used for more than 100 years,” Carlson said. “This is a green revolution. So who cares about some old pipeline?”
“In the state of California, the average price of a gallon of gas is over $4.00,” Carlson went on to argue, tying the increase to Biden policies. “A year ago it was $2.70… Why? This is the result of policy decisions made by the new administration. This is the Green New Deal. We’ve got it already. And if you love gas shortages and electricity blackouts and $80 plywood, this is the program for you.”
Carlson closed by tying the pipeline shutdown to the Texas energy crisis earlier this year.
“The answer, as you may have guessed, is that bad federal policies are distorting the price of everything in this country, from two by fours, to diesel fuel to corn dogs. None of this is an accident. Just as it wasn’t an accident when the power went out in Texas over the winter. It wasn’t a cold snap that did it, it was a federal policy that encouraged the state to rely on windmills that don’t actually work. So, it’s not a natural cycle. Somebody did this to us on purpose.”
Carlson is wrong, from top to bottom, in just about every key assertion in the monologue.
Yes, there are gas shortages, and spiking prices, in the Southeast right now. They came about as a result of a specific event, a cyberattack that shuttered a pipeline. Despite Carlson trying to sow doubt, where none exists, in calling the cyberattack “the official explanation,” that’s what happened. And while there’s certainly pain in gas shortages, it appears likely that the supply crunch will be a temporary one, lasting a matter of days.
The Biden Administration very clearly does not “approve of” the pipeline disruption; if anything, it’s a major political headache for them and they would prefer the problem be solved as quickly as possible. Furthermore, the Biden Administration’s energy policies do not advocate removing every oil pipeline immediately, or closing every gas station, nor anything close to that, but rather transitioning to cleaner energy over a longer period of time. And besides, Biden has only been president for four months, and his energy policies have barely been implemented.
Also, the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline did not affect fuel supply or raise prices, because it was not yet online. The Texas energy crisis, contra Carlson, had almost nothing to do with windmills or any other element of the Biden energy agenda, but rather the failure of the traditional energy grid in extreme weather, per an ERCOT analysis in April.
As for the Green New Deal, it was a specific legislative proposal, by Congressional Democrats during the Trump Administration, which is not the same thing as Biden’s energy policies, nor has it been passed into law.
And there’s a simple reason why gas prices are considerably higher than they were at this time in 2020: The spring of 2020 was the opening stage of the pandemic, stay-at-home orders were in place, and demand for gasoline was at historic lows. In 2021, even before the cyberattack, demand for fuel has risen, bringing prices up along with it.
From that monologue, Tucker Carlson’s audience will be left with the impression that the Biden Administration not only may have lied about the cyberattack but that they are objectively in favor of gas shortages and price spikes. That’s obviously and glaringly untrue.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.