The Biden administration will ban all imports of Russian oil, gas, and energy, President Joe Biden announced on Tuesday, in response to Russia’s continued attacks on Ukraine. The ban will intensify pressure on the Russian economy as it continues a brutal campaign for power, and it will cause a higher surge in gas prices for Americans.
“The decision today is not without a cost here at home. Putin’s war is already hurting American families at the gas pump,” the president said in a speech from the White House on Tuesday morning. Biden said that since Russian President Vladimir Putin began the military buildup around Ukraine, US gas prices have increased significantly. “With this action, it’s going to go up further,” Biden said. “I’m going to do everything I can to minimize Putin’s price hike here at home.”
The measure comes as Putin's campaign has upended the lives of millions of people and left more than 400 civilians dead, including children, as Russian shells and missiles have fallen across Ukraine. The result has been largely unified condemnation from across the world.
Biden emphasized other actions taken by the administration to dismantle the Russian economy and aid against its invasion, including providing “security assistance” to Ukraine, shipments of defensive weapons, and humanitarian relief. He also stressed that the current crisis highlights why it’s so important to become energy independent, including a transition to clean energy that would make domestic price hike considerations moot.
He said the US was moving forward with the bans knowing that other countries would be unable to take similar actions, given that they do not produce nearly the same amount of domestic oil as the US. “We’re working closely with Europe and our partners to develop a long-term strategy to reduce their dependence on Russian energy as well,” Biden said.
Biden’s announcement comes as the administration faced increased pressure from Congress to ban Russian oil, getting support from a range of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Republican senators that include Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski. It also comes after lawmakers held a virtual meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky over the weekend, in which Zelensky reportedly urged the US to implement an oil ban among other requests.
In a letter sent to members of the House of Representatives after Biden's speech, Pelosi said the House would consider legislation that would also ban the imports of Russian oil and energy products that same day. Last week, a bipartisan group of senators introduced the Ban Russian Energy Imports Act, though in a statement praising Biden's ban, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer did not address legislative action in the chamber.
“The world is watching in shock as Russia wages an unprovoked war on Ukraine, killing innocents as it attempts to destroy a fragile democracy. While the Biden administration has taken noteworthy steps to try to convince Vladimir Putin and his regime to stand down, we need an all-encompassing approach that uses every viable tool at our disposal,” Murkowski, who has been the Republican lead on the measure, said in a statement.
In remarks announcing broad economic sanctions against Russia last month, Biden said he would take steps to make sure that US sanctions targeted the “Russian economy, not ours.”
“I want to limit the pain the American people are feeling at the gas pump. This is critical to me,” Biden said while announcing that the administration would take steps to ensure global energy supplies. During his State of the Union address, Biden announced that the US and 30 other countries had committed to releasing 60 million barrels of oil, including 30 million barrels from the US strategic petroleum reserve, which he reiterated on Tuesday.
“The reason why we are seeing volatility in the global oil markets, the reason why the price of gas is going up, is not because of steps the president has taken,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Friday. “They are because President Putin is invading Ukraine and that is creating a great deal of instability in the global marketplace.”
Psaki said that the administration was looking for ways to reduce imports of Russian oil while “maintaining the global supply needs.”
In a call after Biden's announcement, a senior administration official said Tuesday's executive order would block "any new purchases of Russian crude oil and certain petroleum products, liquified natural gas, and coal, and winds down the deliveries of existing purchases that have already been contracted for."
The senior administration official went on to say that the executive order bans new US investments in Russia's energy sector and prohibits Americans from "participating in foreign investments that flow into Russia's energy sector."
Still, despite the rising costs for Americans, there’s been support for doing more as Putin’s unprompted and continued attacks across Ukraine have caused a humanitarian crisis.