Following a barrage of pressure from Republican and Democratic legislators, Joe Biden is set to ban Russian energy on Tuesday, sending gas prices even higher.
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There have been mounting calls for action since late last month when Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian government invaded Ukraine without provocation.
According to Bloomberg, European allies, which depend more on Kremlin energy exports, won’t join the ban but have been consulted by US officials.
Biden will speak about measures ‘to hold Russia accountable’ at 10:45 a.m. ET at the White House.
Putin has threatened to close down Russia’s gas pipeline to Europe if a boycott of energy exports from his country does not end — a move that could push crude oil prices to a staggering $300 a barrel.
On Monday, the price of a barrel reached a record high, reaching $140 per barrel, a rate that hasn’t been seen since 2008.
The US, however, relies on imports of Russian energy far less than the EU.
In 2020, only 7 percent of imported liquid fuel was coming from Russia.
Nevertheless, the US’ reliance on Russian crude oil and petroleum products increased significantly during Biden’s first year in office. The imports of Russian crude oil alone increased 162 percent. According to official US data, 28 million barrels of Russian oil were imported in 2020. This number has now reached 73 million barrels.
Ultimately, it only accounted for about 3.5 percent of US crude imports last year, according to the Energy Information Administration.
In contrast, sixty percent of Russia’s oil exports go to Europe, which accounts for about one-third of the continent’s oil needs.
In terms of crude oil exports to the United States, Russia ranks third.
51.3 percent of all oil and petroleum imports to the United States come from Canada.
Mexico follows Canada, with 8.4 percent, followed by Russia, with 7.9 percent, then Saudi Arabia, with 5.1 percent, according to EIA’s 2021 statistics.
Following the explosion of news and images of Putin’s atrocities in Ukraine, calls for a nationwide ban on Russian energy imports have gathered traction.
According to Pelosi, the House is considering legislation that would ban Russian oil imports. It is expected that Congress will also pass an aid package worth $10 billion for Ukraine this week.
There have been a number of bills introduced in both houses of Congress regarding such bans. Last week, a bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill to ban the import of energy from Russia, which is meant to be fast-tracked by Congress.
An opinion poll taken by Reuters last Friday finds that an overwhelming majority of Americans favor banning Russian oil imports due to the atrocities in Ukraine.
As gas prices continue to climb from near-record levels following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Biden and congressional Democrats championing green energy policies face a serious uphill battle ahead of the midterm elections.
At his State of the Union address last week, Biden announced that the United States would release 30 million barrels from its Strategic Petroleum Reserve to protect consumers from the rising prices during the war between Russia and Ukraine, but the prices have continued to rise. On Monday, the national average topped $4 and set an all-time record.
Republican critics accuse Biden of giving Putin leverage by continuing Russian oil purchases while canceling the Keystone XL pipeline and freezing new oil and gas leases on federal lands. They claim he funded President Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine by not sanctioning Russia’s oil and gas industry.
Some Democrats have pointed the finger at monopolies and gouging for the rising prices. Senators Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., have attributed the hikes to the “greed” of fossil fuel companies.
“The bottom line is this: The real problem with increased gas prices is gouging and monopolies,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday. “You’re going to hear a lot more from us on those issues in the near, near future.”
There are other senators, such as Democrat Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire and Republican Mark Kelly of Arizona, who have called for the temporary elimination of the federal gas tax. As part of a bill introduced last month, the 18.4 cents-per-gallon federal tax would be eliminated until the end of 2022.
On Thursday, Pelosi indicated that she is in favor of banning Russian oil imports, but she is not in favor of drilling on public lands.
Louisiana’s Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Republican, called the Democrats’ push for a gas tax holiday a “political cover” for the midterms.
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“I will note that people promoting this tend to be Democrats who are up for reelection, looking for a way to offset the fact that they have been opposing development of America’s traditional fuels,” he said in a Fox News interview. “Instead, now that we’ve got a spike in prices, they’re looking for political cover, if you will. Another excuse not to do what is politically inconvenient.”
Cassidy said it is “hard to keep a straight face” when Biden says he will do everything he can to lower gas prices.
“I once read that the party in power always loses when gas prices are above a certain threshold. They are currently above that threshold,” Cassidy said.
“Historically, inflation works against the party in control of Washington,” said Representative Morgan Griffith from the House Energy and Commerce Committee.