Republicans and Democrats in Congress are pressing President Biden to impose a ban on Russian energy imports as part of their search for new ways to punish Moscow for its bloody invasion of Ukraine. The White House, on the other hand, is opposed to the idea, claiming that it would raise the price of gasoline and other energy-related costs for American consumers and businesses.
The effort reflects a ferocious, bipartisan backlash on Capitol Hill against Russian President Vladimir V. Putin and his unprovoked offensive in Ukraine, an attack that has claimed thousands of lives and forced one million Ukrainians to flee their country in less than a week, according to the White House.
The rising momentum behind the initiative, which analysts have predicted would be mostly symbolic in nature, has also highlighted how little options Congress and the White House have at their disposal as they search for fresh methods to damage Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Even in the absence of sanctions, Russian energy accounts for only a small portion of American imports, and Moscow is already experiencing difficulties exporting its oil, as traders, insurance companies, and refiners reduce their purchases of Russian crude for a variety of reasons ranging from reputational risk to the safety of tankers in a war zone, among others.
On the other hand, the push on Capitol Hill continued to gain momentum on Thursday afternoon. As a result, it garnered the approval of the most prominent public figure in Congress, Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, who praised the measure during her weekly press conference, telling reporters: “I wholeheartedly support it.” “It should be prohibited.”
18 senators from both parties, equally split between Republicans and Democrats, introduced a measure on the Senate floor that would declare a national emergency and ban the purchase of Russian energy.
Many of the lawmakers who were most vocal in their support for such a ban — as well as in their support for assisting American oil producers fill the resulting void by lifting restrictions on oil and gas drilling in the United States — were either from states with the highest levels of oil and gas production in the country or were facing difficult re-election battles in the coming year.
Mr. Biden and his aides at the White House continue to oppose proposals for more punitive sanctions on Russia’s energy, claiming that doing so would cause gas prices to skyrocket.
Politicians from both political parties have attempted to link the Biden administration’s resistance to both banning Russian gas and opening up new drilling to increasing gas prices in different campaigns.
Ms. Psaki went on to say on Thursday that the administration had not ruled out any options and was looking at methods to reduce American reliance on Russian energy, but only “within the framework of ensuring a stable global supply of energy.”
The 700,000 barrels of oil per day that the United States purchases from Russia accounts for less than 4% of total American consumption and around 14% of total Russian petroleum exports, respectively. This shortfall in barrels might be made up for by the scheduled release of strategic reserves, as well as additional imports from countries such as Canada, Brazil, and Colombia, and perhaps African suppliers if necessary.
None of this has deterred Republican members of Congress from urging President Biden to allow domestic drilling. They see it as a means to both humiliate Mr. Putin and take advantage of an economic opportunity at home, and they are right.
Oil executives, under pressure from investors, have hesitated at increasing output to much higher levels since such actions have in the past flooded the market and caused commodity prices to plummet in value. Instead, oil executives have returned recent earnings to shareholders in the form of increasing dividends, while also repurchasing shares in order to improve the value of their companies’ stock prices.
A vocal supporter of this policy has been Scott D. Sheffield, chief executive of Pioneer Natural Resources, which is one of the region’s largest producers and one of the region’s largest employers. In an interview published on Thursday, he acknowledged that his viewpoint had evolved significantly in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
He warned, however, that such efforts would take time, adding that the business was hampered by a scarcity of manpower as well as the sand required for the hydraulic fracturing procedure, which is used to extract natural gas from hard shale formations.
It presently produces almost 12 million barrels of oil per day, or around 60% of total national consumption, and it is now a net exporter of both oil and natural gas, according to the International Energy Agency.