US ban on Russian oil: Is Biden right?

Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

Fact Box

  • On March 8, 2022, President Biden placed a ban on Russian oil and energy imports with Britain issuing a phase-out ban by the end of 2022. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, oil prices have risen over 30%. 
  • In 2021, the US imported about 700,000 barrels of crude oil and petroleum products per day from Russia; the new ban will “deprive Russia of billions of dollars in revenues from US drivers and consumers annually.”
  • The United States, EU, and UK governments have imposed sanctions on Russia limiting the ability to access $630 billion in international reserves, dual-use goods (chemicals and lasers), the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, and travel across countries. 
  • In an emergency United Nations General Assembly, 141 countries passed a nonbinding resolution on March 2, 2022, condemning Russia for invading Ukraine with only five countries in opposition: Russia, Belarus, Syria, North Korea, and Eritrea.
  • Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was initiated on February 24, 2022, with “unleashing airstrikes on cities and military bases and sending in troops and tanks” with condemnation coming from the US, Europe, South Korea, Australia, and other countries.

Andrew (Yes)

In banning imports of Russian oil, the Biden administration has enacted another powerful economic weapon against a regime that has invaded a sovereign neighbor for no legitimate reason and caused death, misery, and enormous disruption to the global economy. The administration is right to take this step as the atrocities being committed against civilians by the Russian military are unimaginable and must be stopped immediately. Oil exports are a major source of revenue for the Russian state, and during times of unparalleled aggression, the United States should not be purchasing oil that will ultimately fund the Russian war machine.

The United States is in a good position to enact this ban as we are far less dependent on Russian oil than our European allies. While this will no doubt increase prices at the pump, it is important to stand firm with our Ukrainian allies to punish Russian aggression until it ceases. The extra dollars Americans will pay at the pump are nothing compared to the price of life and liberty that many Ukrainians are paying on the front lines.

Finally, banning imports of Russian oil will ultimately help the Biden administration's energy goals of moving toward more sustainable energy sources such as solar and wind. While these renewable sources won't fully fill America's energy gaps in the short term, the instability of gas prices and unreliability of foreign oil may factor into consumers' mind's in the future when considering purchasing an electric vehicle. Banning Russian oil will ultimately benefit the environment and punish a bad actor on the world stage.

Siam (No)

The US tightened the screws on Russia by banning the import of Russian oil. While Biden may rejoice, across the nation, the minimum price per gallon of gas hit an all-time high of $4.25, and the price of crude oil topped $130 per barrel. The way things are going between the Ukraine-Russia conflict, Americans will start feeling more pain at the pump and for all other commodities, which require gas to land on their porches or shelves. 

Biden should not have tossed out Trump's policies, which would have strategically replaced Russian oil with American energy independence. Extracting oil from American soil is a feat that takes planning and resources but was something unwisely canceled by Biden on his first day in office. Even though Biden claims there are over '9,000 approved drilling permits' for oil and gas companies, that does not mean those companies have acquired the necessary approved leases to construct production facilities. Attaining oil means having the right equipment and laying down the infrastructure, which can take months or years to develop. 

Obtaining oil from Venezuela is something Biden is considering, but their crude oil requires much processing before use. And perhaps more important, buying from Venezuela, a Russian ally, just transfers support from one dictator to another. This policy of banning Russian oil in the short term will fail almost immediately as Biden made the call without calling on American producers first or even talking to the industry executives. Presidents previously had this type of collaboration and cooperation during the 1973 Suez and 1991 Kuwait crises. Simply banning Russian oil outright is not a wise strategy and impacts everyone except Biden, whose energy bills are paid by the taxpayer.

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