Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with the Axios AM and PM newsletters. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to the Axios Closer newsletter for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios Pro Rata

Dive into the world of dealmakers across VC, PE and M&A with Axios Pro Rata. Delivered daily to your inbox by Dan Primack and Kia Kokalitcheva.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with the Axios Sports newsletter. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Des Moines newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Tampa Bay newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Nashville news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Nashville newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Columbus news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Columbus newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Dallas news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Dallas newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Austin news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Austin newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Atlanta news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Atlanta newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Philadelphia news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Philadelphia newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Chicago news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Chicago newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top DC news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios DC newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Natural-gas explosions in Massachusetts and Hurricane Florence’s threat of energy infrastructure remind us that energy can pose enormous, sometimes deadly, risks.

Why it matters: Energy is the thing we all need but don’t notice until it’s gone, expensive or going awry. Energy facilities — particularly nuclear plants — appear to be withstanding Florence well. We saw a tragically different outcome in Massachusetts Thursday, with one death and roughly two dozen injuries. They both inject a consciousness into our energy dependence we usually overlook.

Think about it:

  • We drive gasoline-powered cars.
  • We use plastics made from petroleum.
  • We fly in jet fueled-planes.
  • We live in homes with electricity. What kind? Most of us don’t know or care.
  • Our homes in America are increasingly powered by natural gas — particularly Massachusetts.
  • We live in homes heated by natural gas.
  • Some of us cook with natural-gas stoves.

But we don’t actually think about this. We aren’t thankful when the lights come on. Reporters don’t bother writing stories about how nuclear power plants stood up well to hurricanes. As someone on Twitter told me last week, “Dog doesn't bite man is rarely newsworthy.”

Honestly, I should have written this story when, in that not too-distant past, I accidentally left my gas-powered stove on just a touch and unknowingly filled my home with natural gas all day. Four fire trucks came. My neighbor darkly joked about the irony of an energy reporter dying of a natural gas explosion (I was not amused).

I didn’t write a story, because I didn’t explode and I carried on with my life like nothing happened. The moral of that story: I am just as bad as you, and I cover this most days of my life!

This lack of consciousness of energy makes the job of those who work in it unforgiving and unrelenting. You get no positive reinforcement for doing a job perfectly that we all rely on. Yet, in the rare times something goes wrong, you’re suddenly the devil and the world should get rid of you yesterday.

Embedded in all of this is risk: how much we’re willing to take and what tradeoffs we’re willing to accept in order to minimize risk.

Some risk we’re aware of and can choose: driving a car or flying in a plane. Then there’s risk we may be unaware of or have no choice to avoid: natural gas exploding in our homes, or a nuclear plant 30 miles away at risk of melting down.

The risks of these are infinitesimal, but the fear is real. And, in rare moments they happen: Massachusetts gas explosions, Fukushima nuclear meltdown, BP oil spill.

For some context, in America:

Some folks might be thinking right about now, "Hey, you’re forgetting renewables, they’re the answer." Yes, they are part of it. Renewables aren’t explosive (big plus), and their share of the world’s electricity mix is growing fast.

But the world is still deeply dependent upon fossil fuels (81% to be exact), and tradeoffs exist with wind and solar (they need heck of a lot of land, for example, to match fossil fuels and nuclear).

So even while a transition is underway to safer forms of energy, it's critical to make sure the risk of our current dominant sources is as close to zero as possible. Lawmakers are already calling for hearings in response to the Massachusetts explosions.

A 2010 gas pipeline blast in San Bruno, Calif., which killed eight people, led to the inclusion of new safeguards, like automatic pipeline shutoff valves, in a 2011 pipeline safety reauthorization bill. But its implementation remains incomplete.

“When energy hurts somebody outside its immediate value chain, there’s usually a policy response.”
— Kevin Book, managing director, analysis firm ClearView Energy Partners

What’s next: I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the longest term, trickiest type of risks: Those posed by a warmer planet, which is occurring largely due to our dependence on fossil fuels.

Sea level rise, more extreme storms and more flooding all increase risks for average homeowners, businesses and energy infrastructure, wrote Edward Rust Jr., former longtime State Farm chief executive, in a New York Times op-ed earlier this month. He endorsed a carbon tax as one good way to reduce risk.

Go deeper

Biden says Russia likely to invade Ukraine

President Biden addressed the brewing conflict between Russia and Ukraine during a press briefing Wednesday, saying of Russian President Vladimir Putin, "my guess is he will move in."

Why it matters: U.S. officials have issued a series of warnings about Russia's threatening military buildup on the border with Ukraine, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying in Kyiv earlier Wednesday that Russia could invade "on very short notice."

Biden challenges GOP agenda: "What are Republicans for?"

President Biden pushed back against Republican efforts to obstruct his agenda during a press conference Wednesday, asking "What are Republicans for?"

Why it matters: Biden's speech comes as he approaches one year in office, facing low polling numbers and a stalled agenda.

Nathan Bomey, author of Closer
2 hours ago - Economy & Business

Biden’s face mask campaign requires more imports from China

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

American mask manufacturers are getting whiplash, having gone from sleepy sector to mission-critical industry overnight — only to see sales collapse before now being suddenly in demand again.

Why it matters: As the highly contagious Omicron variant of COVID-19 rages, health experts now say Americans need legitimate N95 or KN95 masks to best protect themselves — not widely available fakes or less effective cloth masks.