Saturday, March 25

US in ‘very active discussion’ with allies to ban import of Russian oil | Biden administration

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says the US and its allies are engaged in a “very active discussion” about banning the import of Russian oil and natural gas in a new escalation of sanctions in retaliation for its invasion of Ukraine.

The US and western allies have until now held off on current energy supplies from Russia, in order to avoid blowback on their own economies, where inflation is already making prices of gasoline and other goods a problem.

Earlier this week, the White House publicly rebuffed suggestions from lawmakers that the US ban Russian oil, which made up 3% of all the crude shipments that arrived in the US last year, according to data from the US Energy Information Administration.

But Europe is far more dependent, with an estimated 30% of oil and 39% of gas supplies coming from Russia.

Blinken told CNN on Sunday morning that Joe Biden agreed to a meeting of his National Security Council on the subject the day before.

“We are now talking to our European partners and allies to look in a coordinated way at the prospect of banning the import of Russian oil while making sure that there is still an appropriate supply of oil on the world market,” said Blinken. “That’s a very active discussion as we speak.”

Republicans and a growing number of Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, back the idea of ​​a Russian oil import ban, arguing that Russia’s lucrative exports fund Putin’s war effort.

“I’m all for that… ban the oil coming from Russia,” Pelosi said at her weekly press briefing on Capitol Hill on Thursday. But the White House has maintained that it doesn’t want to cause domestic fuel prices to rise.

“We don’t have a strategic interest in reducing the global supply of energy,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki has said.

Energy analysts have warned that there are limited options for maintaining oil supplies without Russian imports. OPEC Plus member countries, which include Russia, last week rejected increasing production, and global inventories of oil are low.

Oil rose to $117 a barrel last week, the highest price since 2008. One option to maintain price stability, analysts have said, is to reduce demand – a process known to traders as “demand destruction.”

On Sunday’s US TV talk shows, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican, said he supported Biden’s resistance to issuing a Russian oil import ban so far. But he said the US could “phase that in pretty rapidly” using “reserves for the purposes of buffering that”.

“We have more than enough ability in this country to produce enough oil to make up for the percentage that we buy from Russia,” Rubio said, adding that: “This notion that somehow banning Russian oil would raise prices on American consumers is an admission that this guy, that this killer, that this butcher, Vladimir Putin, has leveraged over us.”

“I think we have enough that we should produce more American oil and buy less Russian oil or none – actually, none at all,” Rubio added.

But the issue of producing more oil in the US is a controversial one, with partisan battles over the role of government in using laws to curb greenhouse gas emissions and wean Americans off fossil fuels in the face of the climate crisis.

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