WASHINGTON — President Biden said on Tuesday that the United States was punishing Russia for a “vicious war of choice” in Ukraine by banning imports of the country’s oil and gas, but warned Americans that the move would inevitably lead to painful and higher prices at the gas pump.
“I said I would be on the level of the American people from the start,” Mr Biden said. “And when I first talked about it, I said that defending freedom is going to be expensive. It’s going to be expensive for us, too, in the United States.
Mr. Biden’s decision effectively cut off the relatively small flow of oil to the United States, which receives less than 10% of its energy resources from Russia. Republicans and Democrats in Congress had urged the president to take action to ensure Mr Putin did not profit from US oil purchases.
Britain joined the United States in action on Tuesday. In an announcement around the same time Mr Biden was speaking, Britain said it would phase out Russian oil imports by the end of the year to increase the Russian president’s economic isolation, Vladimir. V.Putin.
The British decision does not affect Russian gas supplies and would give oil importers several months to draw up alternative plans to try to avoid any disruption.
Unlike several other Western European countries, Britain is not a major importer of Russian energy. Yet Russia accounted for 8.3% of UK crude oil imports in 2020, according to government statistics, and prices have already risen at petrol stations while other energy costs, for industry and domestic heating , soared there.
In brief remarks before heading to Texas for a veterans’ event, Biden promised to do what he could to minimize the decision’s impact on gas prices, but he didn’t. clarified whether the United States would seek to import oil from other countries. already under sanctions, like Venezuela or Iran.
And he warned oil companies in the United States not to take advantage of the decision by arbitrarily raising prices.
“Russia’s aggression is costing us all,” he said. “And now is not the time to make profits or inflate prices.”
Officials said Mr Biden had struggled for days over whether the step had been taken, when it would accelerate the already rapid rise in gasoline prices – a potent political issue for Americans in a critical election year.
Already, concerns about disruptions in the flow of oil around the world have pushed up the price of Brent crude, the global benchmark for oil. On Tuesday morning, Brent reached $130 a barrel. It hit $139 a barrel, up 26% over the past week.
In his remarks, Mr. Biden sought to blunt attacks from Republicans, who have previously accused the administration of pursuing environmental policies — such as blocking drilling on some public lands — that have made the situation worse. Some Republicans have urged the president to allow more drilling to replace oil from Russia.
Mr Biden said oil companies in the United States already have permission to drill in areas they have not yet exploited.
“They have 9,000 permits to drill now,” he said. “They could be drilling right now, yesterday, last week, last year. They have 9,000 to drill onshore that are already approved. So let me be clear – let me be clear. They don’t use them for production now. It is their decision. These are the facts.
Many Republicans and Democrats in Congress have pushed for a ban on Russian energy. But the White House is bracing for criticism from Republicans as gas and other energy prices rise over the next few weeks.
“This crisis is a stark reminder: to protect our economy for the long term, we need to become energy independent,” he said, adding, “This should motivate us to accelerate the transition to clean energy.” .