Was the Consumers Energy natural gas substation fire actually a cyber attack?
On January 29th 2019, the Director of National Intelligence sat down in front of the United States Senate and warned them that China and Russia had the ability to shut down natural gas distribution to the United States. That same day, a record cold snap hit the Midwest United States, a cold front that lingered for a number of days. And then on January 30th, the very next day, Michigan's largest natural gas supplier (Consumers Energy) was struck with a disaster: a fire at a natural gas substation that knocked out 67% of the natural gas supply to the state of Michigan. GM, Ford, and Fiat Chrysler agreed to cut back on gas usage at their factories, the entire state agreed to lower their thermostats on a night where the wind chill dipped down once again to -20F. The cold weather across the Midwest has been linked to 10 deaths at the time of writing. We're not talking about a bit of a chill, we're talking deadly cold.
Now, I have no proof of any cyber attack. And even if it's true, I doubt we'd ever hear about it. That's not the kind of thing you want to admit. But let's just pretend for a second.
The US Director of National Intelligence admits publicly that China and Russia can, at any moment, take control over and shut down America's power grid and natural gas supply. The very next day, during a record cold wave, one of the states most impacted by the cold loses more than half of its natural gas supply in a freak disaster just as everyone is headed to bed.
If I was China and I wanted to confirm what the DNI said was true without facing serious repercussion, if I wanted to slap the US across the face, what would I do? Forcing everyone in a single state to lower their overnight furnace temperature by a few degrees would do it for sure. No one is going to die, it's just a minor inconvenience, but during a time when people are afraid to go outside, afraid that if their heat goes out their family might freeze to death in their sleep, it sure is scary.
It could just be bad luck. Mistakes happen, demand was higher than the machines could handle, and a disaster was inevitable. But if China or Russia wanted to confirm what the US DNI said and show the world they really do have control over the US's energy grid... I can't think of a better time or better way to show that off.