President Joe Biden on Tuesday banned oil and gas imports from Russia, one of the most far-reaching sanctions on the country, after President Vladimir Putin sent troops to invade neighboring Ukraine. The move comes at a time when natural gas prices are soaring and some Democrats in Congress want to take the opportunity to push the clean energy agenda.
The Ukraine crisis has disrupted global energy markets as Russia produces a sizable portion of the world’s oil (12%) and natural gas (17%) – commodities now seen as politically toxic commodities in Europe and North America. Last week, for example, BP, Shell and Exxon Mobil began withdrawing from the Russian oil market.
The United States relies on Russia for about 8 percent of its oil imports, or about 700,000 barrels per day. Since Russia invaded Ukraine two weeks ago, crude oil prices have surged 30%, and the price of natural gas in the U.S. has risen 18%, now averaging more than $4 a gallon. “Defending freedom will come at a price,” Biden said at a news conference on Tuesday.
This chaotic moment proved to be another divisive moment in American politics. The question in question is whether the Russian oil gap should be filled with more oil or renewable energy. While fossil-fuel-friendly interests have called on the world’s leading oil producer, the United States, to increase drilling, others see turbulent times as another reason why the world should speed up its transition to clean energy.
“We really need to think deeply about how to restructure the global energy system to avoid this exposure to the whims of one country or one person,” Jesse Jenkins, an energy systems engineer and professor at Princeton University, told the Los Angeles Times.
Some elected officials hope the unrest will push the country away from fossil fuels. Last week, Sen. Edward Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, introduced a proposal for the United States to replace Russian oil products with clean energy. “The clean energy revolution must be at the heart of our long-term response to this brutality in Ukraine,” Markey told reporters. The idea has some bipartisan support, with Republican Representative Nancy Mace of South Carolina signing on as a co-sponsor on Monday.
Shortly after Biden’s announcement on Tuesday, the European Union announced a plan to cut Russian oil imports by two-thirds this year and further reduce reliance on Russian natural gas through faster deployment of clean energy and greater energy efficiency efforts. (The U.S. may expand production of heat pumps (energy-efficient air conditioning and heating) for export to Europe, which faces soaring energy prices.) The U.K. now plans to phase out oil imports from Russia by the end of this year. years and is considering doing the same with natural gas. Canada also banned crude oil imports from Russia on Monday — a symbolic decision since it hasn’t imported any crude from Russia since 2019.
Climate advocates say the crisis shows the need to accelerate the development of clean energy for national security and economic reasons. Anusha Narayanan, director of the climate campaign at Greenpeace in the US, said the situation in Russia required a “full-scale deployment of renewable energy to reduce household costs and help us escape the effects of oil price volatility”, in a statement. in a statement.
However, the Biden administration appears to be still looking for more oil. The White House is reportedly looking to negotiate with Saudi Arabia and other authoritarian regimes he has tried to avoid, such as Venezuela and Iran, to replenish supplies.