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White House Bans Russian Oil Imports Into US

March 8, 2022 by Dan McCue
Gas prices are advertised at over five dollars a gallon, Feb. 28, 2022, in Los Angeles, Calif. Gasoline prices are rising again as talk grows about the United States banning imports of oil from Russia to punish the country for invading Ukraine. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced the U.S. is banning Russian oil imports in the administration’s ongoing bid to increase the toll on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

“Today I am announcing the United States is targeting the main artery of Russia’s economy. We’re banning all imports of Russian oil and gas and energy,” Biden said from the Roosevelt Room of the White House. “That means Russian oil will no longer be acceptable at U.S. ports and the American people will deal another powerful blow to Putin’s war machine.”

“This is a step we’re taking to inflict further pain on Putin,” Biden said.

In a call with reporters following the announcement, a senior administration official said the executive order signed by the president on Tuesday banned news purchases and the imports of Russian crude oil, certain petroleum products, liquified natural gas and coal effective immediately, and would wind down the deliveries of existing purchases that have already been contracted for over a 45 day period.

“This is a significant action with widespread bipartisan support that will further deprive Russian President Vladimir Putin of the economic resources he uses to fund his needless war choice,” the official said.

“The executive order also bans new U.S. investment in Russia’s energy sector, which will ensure that American companies and American investors are not underwriting Putin’s efforts to expand energy production inside of Russia. And finally, Americans will be prohibited from participating in foreign investments that flow into Russia’s energy sector,” the official said.

The White House said the United States consulted with the United States’ allies, but did not ask or expect them to join in the ban.

“The United States is able to take this step because of our strong domestic energy production and infrastructure,” the senior administration official said. “We recognize that not all of our allies and partners are currently in a position to join us.”

The United States imports relatively little oil from Russia in the best of times. In 2001, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki pointed out Monday, the U.S. imported less than 700,000 barrels of Russian crude oil and petroleum per day.

According to Energy Information Administration, the actual number was 672,000 barrels a day in 2021, an amount comprising roughly 8% of the total U.S. imports of oil and refined products.

By comparison, she said, Europeans import about 4.5 million barrels of oil per day.

Nevertheless, the administration has been under intense pressure from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in recent days to increase the punishment Russia is receiving for its unprovoked attack on a neighbor.

Until Tuesday morning, the White House resisted those calls, pointing to the rapid rise of the price of gasoline — an economic headache it likely hoped to reduce in an important election year.

On Monday, the price of Brent crude, which serves as the global benchmark for the price of oil, rose 4.3% to $123.21 a barrel.

During her daily briefing for reporters on Monday, Psaki acknowledged that U.S. officials had spoken to their counterparts in Saudi Arabia and Venezuela on “a range of issues” including energy security.

“It’s in everyone’s interests to reduce the impact on the global oil marketplace, and that was part of that discussion,” she said.

“I would note that what the president is most focused on is ensuring we are continuing to take steps to deliver punishing economic consequences on [Russian President Vladimir] Putin while taking all action necessary to limit the impact to prices at the gas pump,” Psaki continued.

Psaki also sought to shoot down assertions that the Biden administration’s tamping down on drilling on private lands and shutting down the Keystone Pipeline have caused the higher prices at the pump.

 “Let me give you the facts here — and I know that can be inconvenient, but I think they’re important at this moment — contrary to what’s been said, we have been clear that in the short term, supply must keep up with the demand.

“We are one of the largest producers with a strong domestic oil and gas industry. We have actually produced more oil; it is at record numbers. And we will continue to produce more oil. At the same time, there are 9,000 approved drilling permits that are not being used,” she continued.

“So the suggestion that we are not allowing companies to drill is inaccurate. The suggestion that that is what is hindering or preventing gas prices to come down is inaccurate,” she said.

Asked whether Biden would ever undo the executive order that stopped the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, Psaki asked the reporter whether she thought that would solve the gas prices issue.

“I actually don’t think it would. The Keystone was not an oilfield; it’s a pipeline,” she said, answering her own question.

“The oil is continuing to flow in, just through other means. So [reopening the pipeline] actually would have nothing to do with the current supply imbalance,” she said.

As for the domestic impact of the latest steps taken by the administration, the senior official said the White House has always maintained that Americans would feel some of the costs related to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

“The price of gas at the pump has gone up about 75 cents a gallon since Putin began to mass troops at the Ukrainian border in early November, and this unprovoked and brutal war has led to higher energy prices and raised costs for Americans,” he said.

“Under President Biden’s leadership, the U.S. will continue to mitigate the pain American families feel at the pump and reduce our dependence on foreign oil and fossil fuels,” he said, before making three points in this regard.

“First, the administration has already committed to releasing more than 90 million barrels from our strategic petroleum reserves this fiscal year,” he said. “This is the result of intensive, around-the-clock coordination and consultation by President Biden and it led to International Energy Agency member countries agreeing to a collective release of an initial 60 million barrels of crude oil from our strategic petroleum reserves — with the U.S. committing about half of that emergency sale. 

“We also remain in active conversations with a range of energy producers and energy consumers on further steps we can take to ensure a stable global supply of energy,” he said. “Second, U.S. oil and gas production is approaching record highs while thousands of drilling permits on federal lands go unused. 

“So federal policies are not limiting the production of oil and gas. To the contrary, the Biden administration has been clear that short term supply must keep up with demand at home and around the world. 

“While we continue to make the shift to a secure clean energy future, we are still one of the world’s largest producers with a strong domestic oil and gas industry. And natural gas production in the U.S. has never been higher and crude oil production is expected to hit a new record high next year.

“Third, in the long run the way to avoid high gas prices is to speed up, not slow down, our transition to a clean energy future,” the official said. “The reality is we can’t drill our way out of dependence on a global commodity that’s controlled in part by foreign nations and leaders, including Putin. 

“The only way to eliminate Putin’s and every other producing country’s ability to use oil as an economic weapon is to reduce our dependence on oil,” he continued. “So even as President Biden does everything in his power in the short term to make sure we can readily access the oil and gas we need to protect American consumers and allied countries, this crisis has reinforced our resolve to make America truly energy independent, which means reducing our dependence on fossil fuels.”

Dan can be reached at dan@thewellnews.com and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue.

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