The Weird Politics of Biden’s Ban on Russian Oil and Gas

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Yesterday, President Joe Biden revealed plans to ban Russian oil and gas imports.Today, I’m announcing that the United States is targeting a main artery of Russia’s economy,” said Biden. “We are banning all imports of Russian oil and gas.” 

Symbolically, it’s an important move,” said Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines.

The ban says, quite loudly, Americans don’t want or need oil or gas from Vladimir Putin’s warmongering, authoritarian regime. OK. But it’s not exactly a bright moral stance, since the U.S. gets much of its oil and gas from other not-so-great regimes and banning Russian imports will only up our reliance on those other countries.

“The reality is if we’re not getting this oil from Russia, we’re likely going to be importing more from another brutal dictator,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D–Conn.) told CNN’s Jake Tapper.

“Instead of buying 3% of our oil from Russia, helping fund their aggression against Ukraine, we’ll likely increase on the 8% of our oil we import from Saudi Arabia and UAE, helping fund their Yemeni genocide,” commented economist Tarnell Brown.

U.S. officials have been talking to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and may ease oil trading sanctions on Venezuela. And “Biden may travel to Saudi Arabia as the US works to convince the kingdom to increase its production,” CNN reports.

The majority of our oil—around 65 percent—is produced domestically, with Canada, Mexico, and Saudi Arabia as our next biggest suppliers. “Russia last year accounted for about 3 percent of U.S. foreign imports of crude oil, and about 1 percent of the U.S. supply overall,” reports The Hill.

Still, oil and gas prices in the U.S. are now likely to go up. “In Russia, the damage is likely to be large and immediate,” reports Reuters. “JPMorgan estimates that its economy will contract by 12.5% from peak to trough.”

Lawmakers from both parties have been calling for a Russian oil and gas ban.

But some—like Rep. Ilhan Omar (D–Minn.)—have been speaking out against it. “That’s not only going to have a devastating impact on the people of Russia, but on Europe as well,” Omar said on Rising. “When we’re having these conversations, they can’t be about just the immediate, gratifying response that we want to come up with.”

Already, climate activists—and Biden—see this as supporting environmental protections and shifts to electric vehicles. “Transforming our economy to run on electric vehicles, powered by clean energy, will mean that no one will have to worry about gas prices,” tweeted Biden.  “It will mean tyrants like Putin won’t be able to use fossil fuels as a weapon.”

But supporters of the Keystone XL pipeline and fewer regulations on energy production also see the ban as bolstering these positions. “Now Biden must immediately lift every roadblock to American energy production!” tweeted U.S. Rep. Andy Biggs (R–Ariz.). “Banning Russian oil without unleashing American energy will only further hurt us.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) has found a way to make this about corporate profits and raising taxes.


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