UK to end Russian oil imports
The UK will phase out the imports of Russian oil and oil products - such as diesel - by the end of the year, Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng announced on Tuesday. US President Joe Biden made a similar announcement immediately afterwards, while the EU has already announced plans to make the continent “independent” of Russian fuels by 2030.
Announcing the measure on Twitter, Kwarteng said that the transition period “will give the market, businesses and supply chains more than enough time to replace Russian imports – which make up 8% of UK demand.”
Kwarteng added that the government will continue importing from “reliable partners such as the US, Netherlands and the Gulf,” and is “exploring options” to cease importing Russian natural gas, which accounts for 4% of the UK’s national supply.
While Kwarteng stressed that Russian oil only accounts for 8% of the UK’s demand, a Bloomberg report before his announcement noted that the ban will also cover refined oil products like diesel. Russia currently supplies around a third of Britain’s imported diesel. With diesel already around 45% more expensive now than in mid-2020, and with nearly four in 10 Britons driving diesel vehicles, the impact of the ban will likely hit motorists hard.
News of the ban comes after Britain levied punishing economic sanctions on Moscow following Russia’s military offensive against Ukraine. Russian ships have been forbidden from docking at British ports, British airspace is closed to Russian flights, and Russian banks and financial institutions have been blacklisted.
Kwarteng’s announcement was made at the same time as Biden revealed that the US would also ban Russian oil and gas imports. Around 3% of America’s oil imports come from Russia, along with a negligible amount of gas. However, the Biden administration has been heavily criticized in recent days over skyrocketing gasoline prices, with Republicans accusing the Democrat of failing to adequately prepare by boosting domestic production.
The EU is more heavily reliant on Russia for its energy needs. The bloc imports more than half of its energy products, with Russia supplying 41% of gas and 27% of oil. While Germany has cautioned against sanctioning Russian energy imports - with Chancellor Olaf Scholz calling them “essential” on Monday - European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced on Tuesday that the EU would reduce its demand for Russian gas by two thirds before the end of the year, and phase out Russian fossil fuels before 2030.