Was Another Shot Just Fired in the Energy War?

Natural gas from the Nord stream pipeline leaks to the surface of the Baltic Sea
Natural gas from the Nord stream pipeline leaks to the surface of the Baltic Sea. Photo released by the Danish Armed Services.

There’s been much speculation in the past 24 hours about what happened to the Nordstream pipelines and who is responsible. Some people point the finger at the United States, others at Russia, although there is no current evidence and all people can do is speculate.

For example, in February, prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Biden said, “If Russia invades… then there will no longer be a Nordstream 2. We will bring an end to it.” When asked how, Biden replied, “I promise you, we will be able to do that.” I think most people think that Germany refusing to certify Nord Stream 2 fulfills that comment. Now, the sudden pipeline explosion is being attributed to the U.S. because of this statement. That’s a pretty tenuous connection.

Others speculate that the Russians sabotaged their own pipeline so they can declare Force Majeure and get out of their contractual obligations to supply gas to Europe, thus avoiding a big lawsuit. It’s also possible that they did it to drive up prices. On the other hand, it could be a European country that took out the pipeline so that Putin can no longer use it as leverage. If you want to head further into the extremes, it could be a gas producer in the Middle East who wants to drive up gas prices and ensure they have a big market in Europe. There is no end to possibilities, and we may never know who did it.

If not Who, then How?

There is also speculation about how the pipelines were damaged. Seismologists detected shockwaves consistent with explosions rather than earthquakes, but were the explosions external to the pipelines or did the pipeline explode outward? If they were external explosions, that would tend to imply a country with a submarine or underwater drones was involved. If the explosion came from inside the pipeline, then that would apply someone with access to send an explosive down the pipeline, not unlike this James Bond scene.

Because no one detected a rise in pressure prior to the explosion, it’s unlikely over pressure within the pipeline caused the explosion. This either rules out hacking or implies the hackers had total control of equipment on both ends of the pipeline and were able to prevent the overpressure from showing up on monitoring equipment.

The Bigger Picture

Regardless of who did it or how it happened, this “deliberate act” is a large step forward in the energy wars. We’ve seen mysterious explosions and fires at gas processing facilities before. For example, in June, a tank exploded and started a fire at the Freeport LNG facility in Texas. There has yet to be an explanation for this event and the planned restart of the facility is taking longer than expected.

Russia has also not hesitated to attack energy production in Ukraine, including taking over its nuclear power plants. Is the war about land or about energy domination? Gee, could those claims of “denazifying” Ukraine be nothing more than Russian propaganda?

It seems the U.S. fights its battles with financial weapons while the Russians weaponize energy. Energy is a valuable weapon indeed. The U.S. should act to accelerate, expand, and diversify its energy production.

Local Impact

The strangest thing about the explosions is that they have very little impact on Europe. They weren’t getting any gas from those pipelines, so losing the pipelines should not affect energy supplies. It eliminates the possibility of European citizens demanding their leaders buy gas from Russia again when things get bad this winter.

For those of us in the States, it’s a warning that we should take nothing for granted. Pipelines and high tension wires crisscross this country. This enables our energy-delivery system to work well in all but extreme circumstances. This is a reminder that it does not take much to knock a few of them out, causing a great deal of disruption.

That means you should keep as much fuel on hand as you can safely store. It means you should have a secondary way to heat your home. Being a prepper means being independent; don’t let yourself be reliant on the utilities. Look for ways to be as independent as possible before someone blows up a pipeline near you.