Biden drags feet on Russian oil ban, WH says Keystone XL irrelevant

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Biden drags feet on Russian oil ban, WH says Keystone XL irrelevant

President Biden kept mulling a possible ban on Russian oil imports Monday as a bipartisan alliance in Congress moved to force his hand — while the White House argued the Keystone XL pipeline wasn’t needed to offset the effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“No decision has been made at this point by the president about an import — a ban on importing oil from Russia,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said during a briefing. “Those discussions are ongoing internally and also with our counterparts and partners in Europe and around the world.”

But Psaki was adamant that allowing construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada into the US would not help alleviate pain at the pump. Biden canceled the project last year hours after taking office.

“The Keystone was not an oil field, it’s a pipeline. Also, the oil is continuing to flow in, just through other means, so it actually would have nothing to do with the current supply imbalance,” Psaki said.

Biden scrapped the pipeline after environmentalists argued that the US should move away from the use of fossil fuels.

President Biden is considering a ban on Russian oil imports amid the invasion of Ukraine.
Adam Schultz/The White House via AP
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that Biden is discussing the potential ban with other world leaders.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that Biden is discussing the potential ban with other world leaders.
EPA/JIM LO SCALZO / POOL

Psaki pointed out that Western European countries import much more fuel from Russia than does the United States — soon after as NATO allies across the Atlantic said they would not join a US oil and natural gas embargo of Russia.

“What the president is most focused on is ensuring we are continuing to take steps to deliver punishing economic consequences while on [Russian President Vladimir] Putin while taking all action necessary to limit the impact of prices at the gas pump,” Psaki said, later noting: “If you look at Russian imports, they account for about a third, currently, of Europe’s oil imports.”

“To give you a point of comparison, the amount that the United States was importing back in 2021, before the invasion, was about 700,000 barrels per day of crude oil and petroleum,” she went on. “The Europeans import about 4.5 million barrels per day of oil. So obviously, we’re also very well aware as we’re having these conversations and as we’re consulting with our partners.”

Psaki claimed that the Keystone XL pipeline would not help the "current supply imbalance."
Psaki claimed that the Keystone XL pipeline would not help the “current supply imbalance.”
REUTERS/Todd Korol

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Monday said that his country would not be cutting off Russian oil and gas imports.

“At the moment, Europe’s supply of energy for heat generation, mobility, power supply and industry cannot be secured in any other way,” said Scholz, who joined a Monday call with with Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

But Biden may soon be compelled to act to ban Russian energy imports by Congress, including leaders of his own party.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) last week endorsed an oil import ban bill pushed by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) — all but ensuring it had enough support to sail through Congress.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told reporters Monday that the Senate should pass legislation this month to ban Russian energy imports.

“The sooner, the better,” Durbin said. “I hope they come around to support the legislation.”

Congress is currently working on a bipartisan bill to ban Russian oil imports.
Congress is currently working on a bipartisan bill to ban Russian oil imports.
Alexei Andronov/TASS via ZUMA Press

Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY) is spearheading a House version of the legislation as Russia’s military moves to encircle Ukraine’s capital and largest city, Kyiv, amid reports of significant civilian casualties in the battle for the country’s second-largest city of Kharkiv.

“It is so obviously apparent that we need to cut it off,” Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) told NBC News last week. “I wonder if there’s a reason we haven’t [and] what the hell the reason is.”

The US imported about 200,000 barrels of oil from Russia per day in 2021, about 3 percent of its total intake, according to the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers.

The White House has resisted cutting off Russian energy by noting in part that it could cause the price of US gasoline to increase, which in turn is likely to exacerbate already soaring inflation — which reached a 40-year high in January.

Biden initially announced limited sanctions against state-owned Russian banks and certain Russian businessmen when tanks rolled across Ukraine’s borders on Feb. 24. After criticism, Biden sanctioned Putin’s vast personal wealth and reached an agreement with US allies to unplug Russia from the SWIFT international banking system.

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