AP

US banning Russian oil imports as Biden warns of ‘costs’

Mar 8, 2022, 7:03 AM | Updated: Jun 13, 2022, 3:38 pm

FILE: President Joe Biden speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House March 8, 2022 in Washingt...

FILE: President Joe Biden speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House March 8, 2022 in Washington, DC. During his remarks, Biden announced a full ban on imports of Russian oil and energy products as an additional step in holding Russia accountable for its invasion of Ukraine. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden announced Tuesday the U.S. will ban all Russian oil imports, toughening the toll on Russia’s economy in retaliation for its invasion of Ukraine, but he acknowledged it will bring costs to Americans, particularly at the gas pump.

The action follows pleas by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to U.S. and Western officials to cut off the imports, which had been a glaring omission in the massive sanctions put in place on Russia over the invasion. Energy exports have kept a steady stream of cash flowing to Russia despite otherwise severe restrictions on its financial sector.

“We will not be part of subsidizing Putin’s war,” Biden declared, calling the new action a “powerful blow” against Russia’s ability to fund the ongoing offensive.

He warned that Americans will see rising prices, saying, “Defending freedom is going to cost.”

Biden said the U.S. was acting in close consultation with European allies, who are more dependent on Russian energy supplies and who he acknowledged may not be able to join in immediately. The announcement marked the latest Biden attempt at cutting off Russia from much of the global economy and ensuring that the Ukraine invasion is a strategic loss President Vladimir Putin, even if he manages to seize territory.

“Ukraine will never be a victory for Putin,” Biden said.

The European Union this week will commit to phasing out its reliance on Russia for energy needs as soon as possible, but filling the void without crippling EU economies will likely take some time.

Unlike the US, which is a major oil and gas producer, Europe relies on imports for 90% of its gas and 97% of its oil products. Russia supplies 40% of Europe’s gas and a quarter of its oil. The U.S. does not import Russian natural gas.

The issue of oil sanctions has created a conflict for the president between political interests at home and efforts to impose costs on Russia. Though Russian oil makes up only a small part of U.S. imports, Biden has said he was reluctant to ban it, cutting into supplies here and pushing gasoline prices higher.

Inflation is at a 40-year peak, fueled in large part by gas prices, and that could hurt Biden heading into the November midterm elections.

“Putin’s war is already hurting American families at the gas pump,” Biden said, adding, “I’m going to do everything I can to minimize Putin’s price hike here at home.”

Gas prices have been rising for weeks due to the conflict and in anticipation of potential sanctions on the Russian energy sector. The average price for a gallon of gasoline in the U.S. hit a record $4.17 Tuesday, rising by 10 cents in one day, and up 55 cents since last week, according to auto club AAA.

Biden said it was understandable that prices were rising, but cautioned the U.S. energy industry against “excessive price increases” and exploiting consumers.

Even before the U.S. ban many Western energy companies including ExxonMobil and BP moved to cut ties with the Russia and limit imports. Shell, which purchased a shipment of Russian oil this weekend, apologized for the move on Tuesday amid international criticism and pledged to halt further purchases of Russian energy supplies. Preliminary data from the U.S. Energy Department shows imports of Russian crude dropped to zero in the last week in February.

In 2021, the U.S. imported roughly 245 million barrels of crude oil and petroleum products from Russia — a one-year increase of 24%, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

“It’s an important step to show Russia that energy is on the table,” said Max Bergmann, a former State Department official who is now a senior fellow at the Democratic-leaning Center for American Progress.

Bergmann said it wasn’t surprising that the U.S. was able to take this step before European nations, which are more dependent on Russian energy.

“All of this is being done in coordination, even if the steps are not symmetrical,” he said. “We are talking to them constantly.”

The news of Biden’s decision Tuesday was first reported by Bloomberg.

The White House announcement comes amid bipartisan pressure on Capitol Hill to ban Russian energy and impose other economic costs.

Last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave a big boost when she declared, “Ban it.”

On Monday, Democrats on the powerful Ways & Means Committee posted, then removed, an announcement on a bipartisan bill to ban Russian oil imports and slap further trade sanctions on the country, according to an aide, because of pushback from the White House to acting before Biden had made his decision.

Pelosi told Democrats in a meeting early Tuesday that the House would go forward with a vote on legislation to ban the Russian oil imports, according to a person granted anonymity to discuss the private caucus meeting.

“The United States economy can fully handle any of the challenges associated with higher oil prices,” Jason Furman, a Harvard professor and former top economic adviser to President Barack Obama. “But it will bring some challenges. We’re going to have higher prices at the pump, and there’s no way around that.”

Before the invasion, Russian oil and gas made up more than a third of government revenues. Global energy prices have surged after the invasion and have continued to rise despite coordinated releases of strategic reserves, making Russian exports even more lucrative.

As a consequence of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the U.S. and international partners have sanctioned Russia’s largest banks, its central bank and finance ministry, and moved to block certain financial institutions from the SWIFT messaging system for international payments.

But the rules issued by the Treasury Department allow Russian energy transactions to keep going through non-sanctioned banks that are not based in the U.S. in an effort to minimize any disruptions to the global energy markets.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said he opposes a European ban on Russian energy imports and that there’s no other way to meet the European Union’s needs for motor fuel, heat and electricity, and industrial use. Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck said Tuesday that when he visited Washington last week, U.S. officials acknowledged Europe was in a different situation.

“They told me in the talks that they will neither demand nor ask that Germany do the same. But I would extrapolate from that for us, and for me, that we need as soon as possible to create the possibility to take similar measures.”

While Russian oil makes up a small amount of overall U.S. energy imports, the U.S. could replace Russian crude with imports from other oil-rich nations, but that could prove politically problematic.

Key U.S. senators are warning the Biden administration from seeking any oil import deal from the Nicolas Maduro regime in Venezuela.

“The Biden administration’s efforts to unify the entire world against a murderous tyrant in Moscow should not be undercut by propping up a dictator under investigation for crimes against humanity in Caracas,” said Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, in a statement late Monday. “The democratic aspirations of the Venezuelan people, much like the resolve and courage of the people of Ukraine, are worth much more than a few thousand barrels of oil.”

___

AP writers Matthew Daly, Lisa Mascaro and Chris Megerian contributed.

KSL 5 TV Live

AP

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) talks to reporters following the weekly Senate Republ...

Michael Tackett

McConnell will step down as the Senate Republican leader in November after a record run in the job

Mitch McConnell says he'll step down as Senate Republican leader in November. The 82-year-old Kentucky lawmaker is the longest-serving Senate leader in history.

2 hours ago

FILE: A general view of a Wendy's restaurant on Sept. 15, 2022, in Farmingdale, New York, United St...

Associated Press

Wendy’s says it has no plans to raise prices during the busiest times at its restaurants

Wendy's says that it has no plans to increase prices during the busiest times at its restaurants.

3 hours ago

FILE - The Toyota Motor Corp. logo is seen, May 11, 2022, at a dealer in Tokyo. In a statement issu...

Associated Press

Toyota recalling 381,000 Tacoma pickups because parts can fall off rear axles, increasing crash risk

Toyota is recalling about 381,000 Tacoma midsize pickup trucks in the U.S. because a part can separate from the rear axle, increasing the risk of a crash.

21 hours ago

FILE - A young golden eagle is released above Rogers Pass by a wildlife biologist on Oct. 6, 2005, ...

Matthew Brown, The Associated Press

Man to plead guilty to helping kill 3,600 eagles, other birds and selling feathers prized by tribes

A Washington state man accused of helping kill more than 3,000 birds — including eagles on a Montana Indian reservation — then illegally selling their feathers intends to plead guilty to illegal wildlife trafficking and other criminal charges, court documents show.

23 hours ago

Idaho Execution Preview...

Associated Press

Idaho delays execution of serial killer Thomas Eugene Creech after failed lethal injection attempts

Idaho on Wednesday delayed the execution of serial killer Thomas Eugene Creech, one of the longest-serving death row inmates in the U.S., after a failed attempt at lethal injection.

24 hours ago

FILE - Donald Trump Jr., speaks at a rally for his father, Republican presidential candidate former...

Jill Colvin and David Fischer, The Associated Press

Letter containing white powder sent to Donald Trump Jr.’s home

Emergency crews responded Monday after a letter containing an unidentified white powder was sent to the Florida home of Donald Trump Jr., the eldest son of former President and GOP front-runner Donald Trump.

2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

Users display warnings about the use of artificial intelligence (AI), access to malicious software ...

Les Olson

How to Stay Safe from Cybersecurity Threats

Read our tips for reading for how to respond to rising cybersecurity threats in 2023 and beyond to keep yourself and your company safe.

US banning Russian oil imports as Biden warns of ‘costs’