US President Joe Biden has announced a total ban on Russian energy imports, including oil and gas.
“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 US ports and the American people will deal another powerful blow to Putin’s war machine,” Biden said in a televised address Tuesday morning.
“This is a move that has strong bipartisan support in Congress and I believe in 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 added.
Biden said he had consulted allies around the world before making the decision, particularly in Europe. “We’re moving forward with this ban understanding that many of our European partners and allies may not be in a position to join us,” he said, pointing to America’s domestic oil production capabilities compared to those of its NATO allies.
“But we’re working closely with Europe and our partners to develop a long-term strategy to reduce their dependance on Russian energy as well,” Biden said.
“This is a step that we’re taking to inflict further pain on Putin, but there will be costs as well here in the United States,” Biden said, adding that “defending freedom has a cost.”
Biden blamed Putin for the rising gas prices Americans have already had to pay. “Since Putin began his military buildup on Ukrainian borders, just since then, the price of the gas at the pump in America went up 75 cents. And with this action it’s gonna go up further,” he said. The president also asked America’s oil producers to refrain from “profiteering or price gouging” at this time.
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi commended Biden’s decision and promised to pass strong legislation on the matter later in the day.
The US Department of Energy increased its prognosis for oil production in 2023 by 390,000 barrels per day, for a total of 12.99 million barrels per day (bpd). Production is expected to increase by 60,000 barrels per day in 2022 to 12.03 million bpd.
US imports of Russian oil nearly tripled in 2021 compared to 2020, averaging roughly 209,000 bpd, according to Energy Information Administration figures.
Biden also commented on the sanctions slapped on Moscow by the US and its allies, saying they’ve already inflicted “significant damage” to the Russian economy.
“[Sanctions have] caused the Russian economy to quite frankly crater. The Russian ruble is now down by 50%…One ruble is now worth less than one American penny. And preventing Russia’s central bank from propping up the ruble, and to keep its value up, they’re not going to be able to do that now. We cut Russia’s largest banks from the international financial system and it’s crippled their ability to do business with the rest of the world. In addition, we’re choking off Russia’s access to technology, like semiconductors, that [will] sap its economic strength and weaken its military for years to come,” Biden said.
The president pointed to the voluntary pullout of US and foreign companies from Russia, and the halt in the trade of “many Russian securities” on the US stock exchange. He also pointed to the formation of a Department of Justice task force to “go after the crimes of Russian oligarchs…to make sure that they share in the pain.”
Russia began a military operation to demilitarize Ukraine on 24 February after weeks of escalating shelling, sabotage and sniper attacks by Ukrainian forces against the Donbass republics.