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A Chevron oil field near McKittrick, California. Photo: George Rose via Getty Images

America’s pipelines and electric grids are vulnerable to major disruptions from “an adversarial attack or natural disaster,” according to a recent Department of Energy (DOE) plan. But DOE’s proposed near-term solution — ordering electrical grip operators to buy electricity from coal and nuclear power producers — misses the point. “Fuel security and diversity” are not the most critical measures for enhancing grid resiliency — robust cybersecurity is.

The big picture: Technological improvements to the production and transmission of electricity promise plentiful and cheap power. But technology has introduced cybersecurity vulnerabilities that are independent of how the energy is produced. These weaknesses are the real threat to grid resilience, and subsidies for failing coal and nuclear plants will not address them.

Federal policies favoring increasingly uncompetitive fuel sources deflect from the real threats to U.S. energy infrastructure. Natural gas, for example, has become a significant primary fuel source for electrical power and plays a key role in reducing carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generation. Ensuring the cybersecurity of our electric grid will therefore entail securing a million miles of natural gas pipelines.

The private sector — the owners and operators of the U.S. energy system, and the owners of the technology — understands this. For example, pipeline operators already share cyberthreat intelligence with industry and government clearinghouses. And electric grid operators recognize that protecting the grid is more complicated than the “gates, guns and guards” required for physical infrastructure.

The bottom line: Vulnerabilities to cyberattacks that technology and microgrids introduce must be addressed. But because coal and nuclear plants are just as susceptible to hackers as gas and renewable-fueled power systems, coal and nuclear subsidies will not do so, even in the near term. Rather, government and energy producers must work together to develop comprehensive cybersecurity measures.

Richard D. Kauzlarich is a former U.S. ambassador and the co-director of the Center for Energy Science and Policy at George Mason University.

Go deeper

Pew: Over 80% of Asian adults say violence against them is increasing

Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

More than 80% of Asian adults say that violence against them is increasing, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

The big picture: The survey, conducted April 5-11, comes after the recent shootings in Atlanta in which eight people, including six Asian women were killed, as well as a yearlong spike in hate incidents against the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community.

Danger lurks in the Democrats' police talk

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats celebrate last June after they passed the George Floyd Policing Act. Photo: Ting Shen/Xinhua via Getty Images

As Congress forges ahead with police reform legislation, Democratic operatives are warning lawmakers to steer clear of any defund-the-police rhetoric since it could hurt them in the midterms.

Why it matters: President Biden and his fellow Democrats say Congress needs to pass the George Floyd Policing Act, which would ban chokeholds, prohibit no-knock warrants and generally make it easier to hold officers accountable for misconduct.

Exclusive: Harris meets Guatemalan president Monday, travels in June

Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Vice President Kamala Harris will meet virtually Monday with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei to discuss solutions to the surge of migration, and she'll visit the region in June, a senior White House official told Axios.

Why it matters: The administration is taking a multi-pronged approach to solving the problem and also hopes to announce details about its plan for investing aid in Central America on Monday — although a final dollar amount has yet to be decided.