President Joe Biden announced on Tuesday that his administration is banning all U.S. imports of Russian oil in an effort to punish Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. The move is expected to send global oil prices spiking even higher as U.S. gas prices reached record highs this week.
Biden announced the move in a White House press briefing on Tuesday morning, saying, “Today I’m 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.”
“That means Russian oil will no longer be acceptable at U.S. ports and the American people will deal another powerful blow to [Russian President Vladimir Putin’s] war machine,” Biden added. “This is a move that has strong bipartisan support with congress and, I believe, the country.”
“Americans have rallied to support the Ukrainian people and made it clear we will not be part of subsidizing Putin’s war,” Biden continued.
Max Bergmann, a former State Department official who is now a senior fellow at the liberal Center for American Progress, told the Associated Press that banning imports of Russian oil is “an important step to show Russia that energy is on the table.”
According to the Associated Press, the U.S. imports about 100,000 barrels of Russian oil every day, which accounted for about eight percent of the U.S. oil imports in 2021. That number represents about five percent of Russia’s crude oil exports. In total, oil and gas exports comprise about a third of the Russian government’s revenue.
While a nationwide ban on Russian oil imports would hurt Russia’s revenue streams, the action is also expected to raise U.S. gas prices, which have already been impacted by the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine. U.S. gas prices increased by an average of 45 cents per gallon last week, and on Tuesday the average gas price nationwide reached $4.17 a gallon for regular grade gas, according to AAA.
The cost for a barrel of crude oil reached $124 in the U.S. this week. Russian deputy prime minister Alexander Novak — who also oversees Russian energy affairs — warned on Monday that oil and gas prices could become unpredictable and that the cost per barrel of crude could hit $300 if the U.S. and other European countries ban Russian gas imports, Reuters reported.
On Tuesday, Biden said he made his decision to ban Russian oil and gas imports in conjunction with U.S. allies and partners, but Biden said “many of our European allies and partners may not be in a position to join us.” Biden said the U.S. is working with other European countries to help them reduce their dependency on Russian oil and gas.
The Biden administration is reportedly looking to import more oil from other nations to alleviate some of the price increase. One potential supplier of more U.S. oil could be Venezuela, though U.S. ties with the country are strained.
The U.S. officially recognizes Juan Guaidó as the country’s interim president while considering Nicolás Maduro to be the leader of an illegitimate regime. Despite the U.S. backing Guaidó’s claim to the presidency, Maduro currently holds the support of Venezuela’s military.
Some U.S. senators are warning the administration to specifically avoid taking more oil imports from Venezuela, including Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ).
“If the reports are true that the Biden administration is brokering the purchase of Venezuelan oil, I fear that it risks perpetuating a humanitarian crisis that has destabilized Latin America and the Caribbean for an entire generation,” said Menendez, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. “Nicolás Maduro is a cancer to our hemisphere and we should not breathe new life into his reign of torture and murder. As such, I would strongly oppose any action that fills the pockets of regime oligarchs with oil profits while Maduro continues to deprive Venezuelans of basic human rights, freedoms, and even food.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), said the Biden administration should replace the Russian oil with U.S. oil.
“We shouldn’t allow Vladimir Putin to have the power at any moment to raise gas prices on Americans by cutting us off at some point now or in the future,” Rubio said Monday. “We should cut him off now, replace it with American oil, and have a buffer in between the time that production starts up and the time we make the cutoff. We can use our strategic reserves for that.”