Energy & Environment

Bipartisan calls grow for end to Russian oil imports

A bipartisan push for the U.S. to stop importing oil from Russia is gaining steam with the introduction of two bills amid Moscow’s bloody invasion of Ukraine. 

On Tuesday, a group of nine Republicans put forward legislation seeking to ban imports of Russian oil, as did Green New Deal champion Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.).

Both were in agreement that the U.S. should stop bringing in Russian oil, but Republicans are pushing for increased U.S. drilling, while Markey is advocating a switch to clean energy.

Both the Markey bill and the separate Republican version, led by Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), would make it illegal to import oil from Russia. 

“First and foremost, President Biden needs to restart America’s energy production and quit financing [Russian President] Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine by continuing to purchase crude oil from Russia,” Marshall said in a statement. 

Markey’s legislation would also require a report identifying entities involved in importing Russian oil into the U.S., their links to Putin and the formation of a strategy to prioritize clean energy instead of Russian oil. And it would require the Biden administration to issue sanctions based on the findings. 

“Our global addiction to oil keeps us locked into dangerous cycles of conflict and corruption, but we can choose a cleaner path to peace. By eliminating our addiction to Russian oil, we can build a pathway to a more prosperous and peaceful future, free from reliance on dirty oil and natural gas,” the Democrat said in a statement. 

The Biden administration may be hesitant to restrict oil imports since fuel prices — particularly at the gasoline pump — have been a politically sensitive issue.

Swing vote Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) on Monday night similarly called for the end of imports of Russian oil. 

“If there was ever a time to be energy independent, it is now. I am calling on the Administration and industry partners to take action immediately, up to and including banning crude oil imports from Russia,” Manchin said in a statement. 

“To continue to ask other countries to do what we can do for ourselves in a cleaner way is hypocritical,” he added. 

It’s not clear whether the Biden administration will ultimately take action to cut off U.S. imports of oil, with the president saying last week that sanctions against Russia were “designed to allow energy payments to continue.”

In a Monday press conference, White House press secretary Jen Psaki noted that decisions to import oil are made by the private sector.

“The U.S. government doesn’t dictate where the U.S. market sells our own oil and gas products nor where it acquires crude or refined products from for domestic consumption. This is all up to the private sector, other than exceptions like countries under sanctions,” she said. 

But pressed on whether the U.S. would move to prohibit it, Psaki said, “We haven’t ruled out that.”

According to monthly totals released by the Energy Information Administration, the U.S. imported nearly 700,000 barrels per day of oil on average from Russia last year.

Overall, the U.S. in 2020 consumed about 18 million barrels per day of oil, and that was particularly low due to the pandemic.

Tags Ed Markey Jen Psaki Joe Biden Joe Manchin Roger Marshall Russian oil imports Vladimir Putin
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