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Biden bans US imports of Russian oil, gas

Darko Janjevic
March 8, 2022

The US will stop importing oil and natural gas from Russia, US President Joe Biden has said as the West escalates sanctions against Moscow over the Ukraine invasion.

A pumpjack pumps oil in California
The US is less dependent on Russian energy deliveries than the EUImage: Robyn Beck/AFP

Russia's key energy exports are facing US sanctions, with President Joe Biden announcing that the United States would no longer import Russian oil.

"We will not be part of subsidizing Putin's war," Biden said, describing energy imports as "the main artery of Russia's economy."

The US president also warned oil companies and their partners against "excessive price increases" as the war and fears of more bans drive up energy prices on the global market.

"Russia's aggression is costing us all and it's no time for profiteering or price gauging," he said.

What is the EU stance?

On Tuesday, Biden said the US decided on the ban "in close consultations with our partners and our allies around the world, particularly in Europe," although many of them might not join the boycott.

Biden pointed out that the US is a net energy exporter, "so we can take this step when others cannot."

"But we're working closely with Europe and our partners to develop a long-term strategy to reduce their dependence on Russian energy as well," he said.

Oil companies turn their backs on Putin

On the same day, the European Commission published plans to cut EU dependency on Russian gas by two-thirds this year and end its reliance on Russian supplies of the fuel "well before 2030."

Just ahead of Biden's announcement, the UK said it would phase out Russian oil imports by the end of 2022.

The US is far less dependent on Russian energy, and oil and petroleum products from Russia account for less that 10% of US imports in that sector. However, the ban comes as US gasoline prices are hitting record highs, as is the case in much of Europe, with crude oil more expensive now than at any time since 2008.

How badly does Germany need Russian oil and gas?

Berlin has so far refused to sanction energy imports from Russia, with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Monday saying they were "essential" to daily life in Europe. The stance was reaffirmed by German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on Tuesday, who said that the transport sector would come to a halt if Germany followed the US example and banned imports of Russian oil.

Despite Germany's efforts to switch to green energy, oil and gas still hold the largest shares in the country's energy mix, with oil accounting for nearly 32% and gas for close to 27% of primary energy consumption. Germany domestic supply of both those energy sources is very low, and Russia accounts for around 35% of oil imports and 55% of foreign gas supply, according to data shared by Economy Minister Robert Habeck last month.

Russia's oil industry

What else did Biden say?

Biden acknowledged that the latest ban would cause fuel prices to rise even more, but pledged to do everything possible to "minimize Putin's price hike" in the US. 

Biden also urged Americans to embrace transition to clean energy, saying it would take power away from "tyrants like Putin to use fossil fuels as weapons against other nations."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy previously urged Western leaders to include Russia's energy exports, an essential source of income for the Kremlin, into the sweeping package of sanctions against Moscow.

While announcing the import ban, the US president pledged to continue supporting Ukraine, and said that "Putin's war on Ukraine would leave Russia weaker and the rest of the world stronger."

He also said the US would "share the responsibility and cost of caring for the refugees," as the number of people fleeing Ukraine topped 2 million.

Edited by: Mark Hallam