Biden declares U.S. ban on Russian oil, warns of gasoline price spikes
AAA reports the average price of a gallon of gasoline in the United States has jumped to the highest level since 2008 after reaching $4.17 Tuesday. (Sean Rayford | Getty Images)
WASHINGTON — The United States will no longer import Russian energy in an attempt to further cripple that nation’s economy as it wages war against Ukraine.
President Joe Biden announced the newest sanctions Tuesday from the White House, saying that a ban on Russian oil and gas would target “the main artery of Russia’s economy.” But he also cautioned that supporting a fellow democracy against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war would affect Americans.
“The decision today is not without cost here at home,” Biden said. “Since Putin began his military buildup on Ukrainian borders, just since then, the price of gas at the pump in America went up 75 cents. And with this action, it’s going to go up further.”
U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan backed Biden’s decisions in written statements.
“I’m glad he heeded our calls in Congress to ban Russian oil, delivering another severe blow to Putin and the Russian economy,” Shaheen said. “Putin and Putin alone bears responsibility for the barbaric attacks on city centers and civilian populations in Ukraine, retaliatory damages felt by the Russian population, and surging energy prices throughout the world.
Hassan said, “I supported these sanctions along with a bipartisan group of my colleagues, and with President Biden’s announcement today, we continue to send an unwavering, bipartisan message that we will not tolerate Putin’s actions.”
Citing concerns about companies using the ban to take advantage of consumers, Hassan’s office said she supports a suspension of the gas tax until 2022. And she has joined Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Louisiana Republican, in introducing a resolution designating Vladimir a war criminal.
AAA reports the average price of a gallon of gasoline in the United States has jumped to the highest level since 2008 after reaching $4.17 Tuesday. That is up from $3.46 a gallon a month ago and $2.77 a year ago.
Biden said his administration would use every tool at its disposal to “protect America families and businesses,” though he later declined to take questions on the specifics of the proposal.
“I know there’s a lot of questions, but there’s a lot more that has to be made clear. And I’m going to hold on that until we get more information,” he said.
The White House said in a statement following the announcement that the executive order would ban Russian oil, liquefied natural gas, and coal.
The latest sanctions follow mounting pressure from congressional Democrats and Republicans, who have been calling for a ban on Russian oil for well over a week.
Thirty senators co-sponsored legislation, introduced last week, that would direct Biden to bar imports of Russian crude oil, petroleum products, liquified natural gas, and coal.
Montana Democratic Sen. Jon Tester said moving the U.S. economy away from “enemies like Russia has to be a top priority as we unite to confront Putin’s unprovoked war on Ukraine.”
“Our best response to rising gas prices should be increasing our domestic energy production from all sources and increasing trade with our allies, not buying from dictators who are actively invading sovereign nations,” Tester said.
Ohio GOP Sen. Rob Portman said: “We must do all we can to bankrupt President Putin’s economy and his war machine in order to defeat Russia’s assault on Ukraine. The United States should immediately stop buying Russian oil and increase domestic energy production here at home.”
U.S. House expected to vote
While no vote has yet been scheduled for the Senate bill, the House is expected to vote Tuesday on a measure banning Russian energy after both political parties reached agreement over the weekend.
It does not appear that legislation will be pulled following Biden’s announcement.
The Biden administration’s ban on Russian oil will likely send the price of gasoline higher, frustrating Americans who have already seen the price at the pump spike due to inflation.
Those prices fluctuate significantly throughout the country, with the highest prices reported along the coasts. California averages $5.44 and lower levels predominate throughout the middle of the country, with Missouri at $3.73.
While the Biden administration sanctioned other major sectors of the Russian economy, it resisted penalizing the energy industry over concerns it would hurt U.S. consumers as well as European allies.
The U.S. imported 12.6 million barrels of crude oil and petroleum products from Russia in December, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
That was, however, the lowest amount imported during the last year.
Russian supply accounts for 3 percent of crude oil imports and about 1 percent of total crude oil processed by U.S. refineries, according to the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, an industry group.
But Russia’s importance as an oil supplier means a ban on the country’s oil in the West would have major effects throughout the interconnected global market.
The U.S. purchased more than 20 million barrels a month during seven months last year, peaking in May with 26.2 million barrels.
“The loss of flow would greatly shift the global supply and demand fundamentals,” Patrick De Haan, the head of petroleum analysis for the gas price-tracking company GasBuddy, said in an interview last month.
Russian oil production
Russia is the No. 3 oil producer in the world, according to the EIA. The European Union imports about 4.5 million barrels per day, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday – more than six times the U.S. 2021 average.
European countries have not announced a similar ban, but European Commission leaders put forward a proposal Tuesday that would reduce gas imports by two-thirds this year and “make Europe independent from Russian fossil fuels well before 2030.”
Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement that Europe “simply cannot rely on a supplier who explicitly threatens us.”
She said she plans to talk with other European leaders during a meeting in Versailles, France, later this week.
The United Kingdom is expected to announce it will begin to phase out all Russian oil imports during the next several months to try to avoid panic buying, according to news reports.
Biden said he’s had numerous conversations with European allies and that his administration is helping European countries with solutions to “wean themselves off Russian oil.”
He also said that the “crisis is a stark reminder to protect” the U.S. economy because “over the long term, we need to become energy independent.”
Accelerating the transition to clean energy, including electric vehicles, is one of the ways to do that, Biden said.
“If we do what we can, it will mean that no one has to worry about the price at the gas pump in the future,” Biden said. “It will mean that tyrants like Putin won’t be able to use fossil fuels as weapons against other nations.”
Biden also pledged that Russia would not win the war it started in Ukraine.
“Russia may continue to grind out its advance at a horrible price. But this much is already clear, Ukraine will never be a victory for Putin,” he said. “Putin may be able to take a city, but he’ll never be able to hold a country.”
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