Biden: ‘Russian oil will no longer be accepted at U.S. ports’

To this point, there’s been a glaring absence in the sweeping sanctions leveled by the United States and its western allies on Russia, which invaded Ukraine at the end of last month: Russian fossil fuels.  

No longer. 

In a press conference Tuesday, Pres. Joe Biden announced a ban on all Russian oil imports. The move is intended to inflict further economic concessions on Russia’s economy, which has cratered in the last week, according to Biden. 

“Russian oil will no longer be accepted at U.S. ports,” Biden said.  

Specifically, the move bans imports on Russian crude oil and specific petroleum products, liquefied natural gas and coal, equaling “nearly 700,000 barrels per day of crude oil and refined petroleum products,” based on import data from last year, according to a statement from the White House. It will deprive Russia of billions of dollars in revenue. 

The step, which most European nations are not taking because they’re so reliant on Russian oil production, is intended to deal a “powerful blow to the Russian war machine. We will not be a part of subsidizing [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s war.” 

The U.S. exports more oil than it consumes and only imports a comparatively small percentage from Russia; however, there will be financial repercussions for constituents and consumers stateside. That’s on top of the impact that’s already been felt. Since Russia started its troop buildup on the Ukrainian border last year, Biden said U.S. gas prices have increased by about 75 cents.  

“There will be costs as well here in the United States. Defending freedom is going to cost us,” Biden said, highlighting steps being taken to blunt the economic blow. “In coordination with our partners, we’ve already announced that we’re releasing 60 million barrels from our oil reserves. We’re also going to keep working with every tool at our disposal to protect American businesses and individuals.” 

The Biden Administration has committed to release at least 90 million barrels from its Strategic Petroleum Reserve. And an emergency sale of 30 million barrels was announced last week. Additionally, the International Energy Agency (IEA) Member countries have agreed to a collective release of another 60 million barrels of crude oil from its reserves, “with the United States committing half of that in the emergency sale,” the White House statement says. 

Given the implications of banning oil imports, Biden advocated in his briefing for a swift move toward clean energy alternatives to restrict fossil fuel reliance on aggressive nations like Russia.  

“Transforming our economy to run on electric vehicles and clean energy—that will help,” Biden said. “If we do what we can, it will mean that no one needs to worry about prices at the gas pump in the future. That will mean tyrants like Putin can’t leverage fossil fuels against other nations.” 

Over the last week or so, the U.S. and its allies have inflicted severe economic damage on Russia and its oligarchs. Likewise, massive private companies have pulled out of Russia in the last week. Trade organizations like the U.S. Conference of Mayors have moved quickly in support of their Ukrainian counterparts. On Friday, the mayoral conference unanimously adopted an emergency resolution supporting Ukraine.

“On Thursday, mayors spoke with Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko about the unfolding situation in Ukraine and pledged their support for the brave Ukrainians fighting for their lives. And today, the Ukrainian Ambassador to the United States Oksana Markarova is set to join mayors virtually to discuss how mayors can support Ukraine at this critical moment,” according to a press statement from the U.S. Conference of Mayors issued Friday about the resolution.

Among other things, the resolution notes, “the Kyiv Mayor also called on America’s mayors to work in their cities to establish, where possible, economic sanctions needed against Russia and the nations supporting her in the attack on his country,” the report says. “America’s cities have long-established sister city relationships with cities in Russia that should be maintained and strengthened to empower Russia’s citizens to speak out in the cause of democracy and peace.”

Through global unity like that displayed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, in about a week, “Russia has become a global economic and financial pariah” through concerted and coordinated sanctions from more than “30 countries representing well over half the world’s economy,” the press statement from the White House says.

Additionally, Russia has been cut off from access to high-tech technology and its banking system has been severed from the global system. The Russian ruble is now worth less than a penny and has hit an all-time low after losing almost half of its value since Putin announced his further invasion of Ukraine.  

In addition to sanctions, western nations have united to provide unprecedented aid. To date since the invasion was launched, for example, the U.S. has provided $1 billion in security assistance to Ukraine and coordinated NATO and western relief efforts on the ground. That’s in addition to a $12 billion Ukrainian aid package House lawmakers are working to approve. 

“When history has been written, Putin’s war will have left Russia weaker, and the rest of the world stronger,” Biden said.

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