President Joe Biden announced on Tuesday that his administration will prohibit Russian oil, natural gas, and coal imports into the United States in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“Today, I am announcing that the United States is targeting Russia’s main economic artery. We are prohibiting all imports of Russian oil, gas, and energy “In remarks from the White House, Biden stated. “This means that Russian oil will no longer be accepted at US ports, and the American people will deal another crushing blow to Putin’s war machine.”
Due to disagreements among European nations over whether to ban Russian energy imports, the US will act unilaterally, without consulting its European allies. The EU has a much greater exposure to Russian energy than the US.
Given the intense political pressure at home, US officials decided that they could proceed without the coalition without causing major problems.
US imports from Russia account for a small portion of the American energy portfolio, accounting for roughly 8% in 2021, with crude oil accounting for only about 3%. Officials say White House economic officials have been discussing how to handle any decision to halt those imports for more than a week. According to the Department of Energy, Russian oil imports dropped to zero in the last two weeks of February as US companies severed ties with Russia, effectively enforcing their own ban. According to one official, these efforts have intensified in recent days as it became almost certain that the US would impose a ban this week.
Top American allies have said publicly and privately that if the US targets Russian energy imports, it will most likely be acting alone. This raised concerns at the White House, as US officials are wary of taking any action that would destabilize the carefully coordinated alliance that has served as the focal point of the response thus far.
However, political pressure from both Republicans and Democrats made deferring a ban unavoidable. The Democrat continued, “When our sanctions, the costs we impose on Putin for his brutal invasion of Ukraine, are coordinated, they are more effective and long-lasting. As a result, I appreciate the administration’s efforts to coordinate with our European allies and ensure that we have laid the groundwork to effectively implement a ban on Russian energy.”
So far, Russia’s oil exports have been exempted from the sanctions imposed by the West in response to its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. However, both Democrats and Republicans have pressed Biden to impose tougher restrictions on Russia’s energy sector, which could do more damage to the Russian economy than the retaliatory economic measures taken so far.
According to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Biden spoke with top members of his administration over the weekend about a potential ban on Russian oil imports.
Over the weekend, Biden administration officials traveled to Venezuela to discuss the possibility of allowing Venezuela to sell its oil on the international market, which would help replace Russian fuel. Biden may also visit Saudi Arabia as the US attempts to persuade the kingdom to increase its output. The talks highlight how Russia’s invasion has upended international relations and forced the US and other countries to seek solutions in places they have traditionally avoided.
The move comes as gas prices in the United States skyrocket as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which is shaking the global oil market. According to the Oil Price Information Service, the company that collects and calculates prices for AAA, the average price for a gallon of regular gas broke its 2008 record on Monday, reaching $4.14. This shatters the previous record of $4.11 per gallon, which had stood since July 2008.
Gas prices were already rising as the United States battled record inflation as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. To combat high energy prices, Biden announced the largest release of oil from emergency reserves in US history in the fall, ahead of the busy holiday travel season.