US plotting unilateral ban on Russian oil imports – media
The White House reportedly plans to ban all Russian oil imports to the US, even if it cannot secure the EU’s backing on the matter, two people familiar with the issue told Reuters on Monday. US President Joe Biden will bring up the topic during a Monday conference call with his French, German, and UK counterparts in which he hopes to gain their support.
A senior US official confirmed to Reuters that if legislation banning Russian imports does pass, “it is likely just the US.”
Europe is already dealing with record-high oil and natural gas prices due to sanctions placed on Russia following the launch of its offensive in Ukraine, setting an all-time record of €345 per megawatt-hour for natural gas futures. The US is also seeing energy prices surge, with gas expected to surpass its all-time high of $4.103 per gallon later this week. Global oil prices have soared to the highest level since the 2008 financial crisis, topping out at $140 per barrel for Brent crude.
These eye-popping figures haven’t stopped the US from racing to ban Russian energy imports. A bipartisan group of senators led by Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) introduced a bill last week to ban imports of Russian oil by declaring yet another national emergency, and the bill is expected to be fast-tracked.
The House is also “exploring” the possibility of banning Russian oil imports, according to a Sunday letter from Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and another massive aid package - this one totaling $10 billion - is expected to be sent off to Ukraine while Americans struggle to pay rent and put food on the table under significantly high inflation.
While America’s reliance on Russian oil and gas is less than that of Europe, with under 7% of its oil supplied by Moscow, a ban would still push fuel prices higher worldwide. The Biden administration has released 30 million barrels of oil from the country’s strategic reserves in an effort to keep prices down, while some Democrats have considered a temporary “gas tax holiday” to ease the squeeze on drivers’ wallets.
The White House is rumored to be planning a trip to Saudi Arabia to push Riyadh to increase oil production in order to lower the price at the pump for Washington’s European allies, according to Axios, though a White House official denied any such trip was planned.