The White House is stopping Russian energy imports as the country wages war on Ukraine, which could push American gas prices even higher.
The ban on Russian oil imports announced by President Biden on Tuesday could have meaningful consequences for the U.S. economy, pushing prices at the gas pump higher when inflation is already rapid, although how long-lasting that impact might be remains uncertain.
“We’re banning all imports of Russian oil and gas and energy,” Mr. Biden said, speaking at a White House briefing. He said the plan would target the “main artery” of the Russian economy. While he acknowledged that the move would likely push gas prices up, he blamed Russian aggression for that reality.
The ban applies to imports of Russian oil, liquefied natural gas and coal. It also prohibits new U.S. investments in Russia’s energy sector. And it blocks Americans from financing or enabling foreign companies that are making investments to produce energy in Russia.
Europe imports far more of its supply from Russia than the United States, but energy markets are global, and the mere threat of a ban has pushed commodity prices higher in recent days.
“Things have been so volatile,” said Omair Sharif, founder of Inflation Insights, noting that it was difficult to tell how much of the rise in oil prices in recent days traces back to this specific ban. But the conflict in Ukraine is clearly pushing commodity gas prices higher — so much so that the national average gas price could rise to nearly $4.50 this month, he said, “assuming we don’t move any more.”
While the oil and gas ban is almost sure to push inflation higher in the United States, economists have said that the scale of the economic consequences would depend in large part on how it was structured. For instance, it would likely make a big difference globally and in markets if Europeans also ban Russian oil and gas imports, and it is not yet clear whether or to what extent that will happen.
A ban across many countries “would severely reduce and disrupt energy supply on a global scale and already high commodity prices would rise,” Caroline Bain, an economist at Capital Economics, wrote in a research note ahead of the announcement, estimating that the price of the global oil benchmark, Brent crude, would settle in at about $160 per barrel in that case.
The Brent crude price jumped by about 6 percent to roughly $130 per barrel by the middle of the day Tuesday. By comparison, it was about $78 per barrel at the end of 2021.
It is not yet clear how many countries will adopt a similar ban: The White House signaled this week that the United States could act separately in blocking imports of Russian oil, noting that countries in Europe are more reliant on Russian energy, something Mr. Biden also alluded to on Tuesday.
“Many of our European allies and partners may not be in a position to join us,” he said, but added that allies “remain united in our purpose” to inflict pain on Russia’s war effort. That includes efforts by the European Union to lessen its dependence on Russian energy.
Britain indicated on Tuesday that it would take its own steps to ban imports of Russian energy products. Kwasi Kwarteng, the country’s business and energy secretary, said that it would phase out imports of Russian oil and oil products by the end of 2022.
Other European countries are under increasing pressure to follow suit.
“Everything’s on the table,” Franck Riester, the French minister for foreign trade, told the franceinfo radio station on Monday, adding that France had to look at potential bans on oil and gas imports from Russia with regard to “consequences in terms of pressure on Russia and in terms of economic, financial and social impacts in Europe.”
The office of President Emmanuel Macron of France said on Tuesday evening that the country had to coordinate with the European Union before taking any further steps, but acknowledged Europe’s need to reduce its reliance on Russia.
“The United States is not dependent on Russian oil and gas, but the European partners are,” Mr. Macron’s office said in a statement. “We have a long-term policy of getting rid of the dependence on Russian oil and gas, but in the immediate future we need to discuss this with our European partners.”
While Italy is very dependent on Russian gas, the nation’s government has said that if the European Union decided to cut off its consumption of Russian gas and oil, Italy would not oppose the effort. Read More….