WASHINGTON- President Joe Biden on Tuesday signed an executive order banning the import of Russian oil, natural gas and coal into the United States in response to the invasion of Ukraine.
In the most severe sanction imposed by the United States so far, the President’s order prohibited:
- The importation into the United States of Russian crude oil and certain petroleum products, liquefied natural gas and coal
- New US investment in Russian energy sector
- Finance or allow foreign investing companies to produce energy in Russia
“Today I am announcing that the United States is targeting the main artery of the Russian economy,” Biden said in a speech in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. “It means Russian oil will no longer be acceptable in American ports and the American people will deliver another mighty blow to Putin’s war machine.”
Since the Russian invasion, two million people have fled Ukraine. While Ukrainian resistance has been fierce, Russian forces continue to try to gain territory, bombarding towns and cutting vital services.
In a tweet following Biden’s announcement of the oil sanctions, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy expressed his gratitude.
“Grateful for the United States and @POTUS personal leadership by striking at the heart of Putin’s war machine and banning oil, gas and coal from the American market. Encourage other countries and leaders to follow,” Zelenskyy tweeted.
In an attempt to inflict an additional financial burden on the Russian economy, Biden called on Congress to pass a $12 billion aid package for Ukraine. The package includes additional defensive weapons as well as “tens of thousands of tons of food, water and medical supplies” for the war-torn nation.
“Over the past two weeks, Ukrainians have inspired the world,” Biden said. “They inspired the world with their bravery, their patriotism, their defiant determination to live free.”
Gasoline prices hit a record high this week. On Tuesday, the national average gas price was $4,173, up 75 cents since Russian leader Vladimir Putin began mustering troops at Ukraine’s borders, Biden said. Additionally, the average gas price in Maryland is $4,192, according to AAA.
Some major trade groups endorsed Biden’s announcement. Major companies such as Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Ford, Nike and Apple have suspended their services in Russia.
McDonald’s announced on Tuesday that it was closing its 850 Russian outlets but would continue to pay all 62,000 Russian employees. Starbucks, Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola have also suspended sales in Russia.
“We commend the administration for banning Russian energy imports,” Martin Durbin, president of the Global Energy Institute at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement. “Now is the time for the administration to partner with domestic energy producers to leverage America’s ability to produce more oil and gas and focus on pro-growth policies to benefit our economy and global security.
The Natural Resources Defense Council, an international nonprofit environmental advocacy group, also endorsed Biden’s latest move and stressed the need to reduce the nation’s dependence on oil and gas.
“It’s the right thing to do. Russia is using oil and gas money to help fund this brutal invasion,” John Bowman, chief government affairs officer, said in a statement. “One of the most important steps we can take right now is to reduce our dependence, at home and abroad, on the oil and gas that helps fund the Russian military. It means moving away from the fossil fuels that lock in dependence on belligerent oil states and lead us toward climate catastrophe.
Biden said the United States would move without some European allies because of disagreements between those countries over a ban on Russian energy imports. Europe is much more dependent than the United States on Russian oil and gas. But the president stressed that “we remain united in our goal to keep the pressure on Putin and his war machine.”
Support for the White House move was bipartisan on Capitol Hill.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, tweeted, “I applaud @POTUS for taking action this morning to ban US imports of Russian oil and gas. Congress continues to monitor this dispute closely and will take action to ban Russian oil today.
“America is saying ‘no’ to Russian fossil fuels,” tweeted Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York. “By prohibiting the import of Russian oil, coal and gas into the United States, @POTUS keep hitting Putin where it hurts. This action sends a clear signal that Americans will not fund Putin’s unprovoked and illegal invasion of Ukraine.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said on Twitter that he too “strongly” supports the sanctions. But he added: We must also recognize that the past year of bad policies by this anti-home energy administration will make this necessary step more painful than it needed to be. Democrats must let Americans produce American energy.
Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Baltimore, also endorsed Biden’s action.
“President Biden made the right decision to ban Russian oil and gas imports today. We must use all available tools to isolate Putin and increase economic pressure on Russia,” Sarbanes said in a statement. .
Biden assured the audience in his speech that paying more at the pump was a temporary sacrifice to help the war effort in Ukraine.
“Everywhere, people are defending freedom. When the history of this war is written, Putin’s war in Ukraine will have weakened Russia and strengthened the rest of the world,” the president said.
This article was published orally on CNSMaryland.org.