In toughest sanction yet, Biden cuts off Russian oil imports to U.S.

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WASHINGTON (CNS) – President Joe Biden signed an executive order Tuesday banning the importation of Russian oil, natural gas, and coal imports to the United States in response to the invasion of Ukraine.

In the toughest sanction imposed by the United States so far, the president’s order banned:

  • The import into the United States of Russian crude oil and certain petroleum products, liquefied natural gas, and coal
  • New U.S. investment in Russia’s energy sector
  • Financing or enabling foreign companies that are making investments to produce energy in Russia

“Today, I am announcing the United States is targeting the main artery of Russia’s economy,” Biden said in remarks delivered in the White House’s Roosevelt Room. “That means Russian oil will no longer be acceptable at U.S. ports and the American people will deal another powerful 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, shelling cities and cutting off vital services.

In a tweet following Biden’s announcement of the oil sanctions, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy expressed his appreciation.

“Thankful for US and @POTUS personal leadership in striking in the heart of Putin’s war machine and banning oil, gas and coal from US 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 assistance package to 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 last two weeks, Ukrainian people have inspired the world,” Biden said. “They've inspired the world with their bravery, their patriotism, their defiant determination to live free.”

Gas prices have hit an all-time high this week. As of Tuesday, the average national gas price was $4.173, up 75 cents since Russian leader Vladimir Putin began amassing troops at the Ukrainian borders, Biden said. Additionally, the average gas price in Maryland is $4.192, according to AAA.

Some major business 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 Tuesday it was closing all 850 of its Russian outlets but would continue paying the 62,000 Russian employees.

“We applaud the administration for banning Russian energy imports,” Martin Durbin, president of U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Energy Institute, said in a statement. “It’s time now 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 the world’s security.”

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The Natural Resources Defense Council, a non-profit international environmental advocacy group, also approved of Biden’s latest move and emphasized the need to reduce national reliance on oil and gas.

“This is the right thing to do. Russia is using oil and gas money to help fund this brutal invasion,” John Bowman, managing director for government affairs, said in a statement. “One of the most important measures we can take right now is to reduce our dependence, at home and abroad, on the oil and gas that’s helping to bankroll the Russian military. That means shifting away from the fossil fuels that lock in dependence on belligerent petro states and drive us toward climate catastrophe.”

Biden said the United States will move without some European allies due to disagreements among those nations about banning Russian energy imports. Europe is much more dependent than the United States on Russian oil and gas. But the president emphasized that “we remain united in our purpose to keep pressure mounting on Putin and his war machine.”

Support for the White House move was widely bipartisan on Capitol Hill.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, tweeted: “I applaud @POTUS taking steps this morning to ban American imports of Russian oil & gas. Congress continues to closely monitor this conflict & will take action to ban Russian oil today.”

“America is saying ‘nyet’ to Russian fossil fuels,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, tweeted. “By banning the import of Russian oil, coal, and gas into the U.S., @POTUS continues to hit 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” backed the sanctions. But he added: “We must also recognize that the past year of bad policies from this anti-domestic-energy Administration will make this necessary step more painful than it had 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 every tool available to isolate Putin and increase economic pressure on Russia,” Sarbanes said in a statement.

Biden assured the public in his speech that paying more at the pump was a temporary sacrifice to help the war effort in Ukraine.

“People everywhere are speaking up for freedom. When the history of this war is written, Putin's war in Ukraine will have left Russia weaker, and the rest of the world stronger,” the president said.

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