Critical infrastructure enables modern society. It includes our communications and Internet, our banking systems, the means of safely delivering our supplies of food and water, health systems, defense installations, transportation networks, air traffic control systems, and logistics and port facilities. It also includes our energy and electricity supply. Power generation plants, electricity grids, and diesel, gasoline, oil, and natural gas distribution networks underpin our entire infrastructure. Critical energy infrastructure is the single most important part of the complex web of critical infrastructure. Without energy—particularly the regular supply of gasoline and diesel—no other element of our critical infrastructure can operate. This was clearly seen in the northeastern United States during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. That is why the priorities in the wake of the storm were first to reestablish power, and second to restore transit systems (buses and subways). Governments and relief organizations quickly realized that only then could other infrastructure, such as hospitals, become operational again.
Threats to our energy infrastructure increasingly take different forms. They can arise from environmental hazards (as in the case of Hurricane Sandy, or the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan); industrial accidents; deliberate sabotage; and “consequential sabotage.” The latter two examples are closely connected, and will be explored further below.