WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden will announce a ban on the U.S. import of Russian energy in the latest effort to ratchet up sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a source familiar with the announcement told USA TODAY.
The White House updated Biden’s schedule Tuesday morning to include remarks announcing “actions to continue to hold Russia accountable for its unprovoked and unjustified war on Ukraine.”
The source, who spoke to USA TODAY on condition of anonymity in order to discuss the announcement, said the speech would focus on the forthcoming ban on Russian oil, liquefied natural gas and coal.
Gas prices have already soared since the war began.
Biden’s announcement came as the White House faced mounting pressure in Congress to act on banning Russian energy.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers announced Monday it had reached a deal for a legislative path forward to ban the U.S. import of Russian energy products and suspend trade relations with Russian and Belarus over the invasion of Ukraine.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said no decision had been made as of Monday, when asked about the legislation.
US can ban imports more easily than Europe
Only the U.S. will impose the ban, but European allies were consulted on the decision, according to the source.
While the U.S. has closely coordinated with allies in imposing sanctions, it would be more difficult for European countries to ban imports because of its greater dependence on Russian oil and gas.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Monday that Europe cannot secure its energy supplies without imports from Russia, while Hungary’s finance minister said that country would not support sanctions on Russian energy.
“I would look at it through a different prism than past coordinated efforts,” Psaki said Monday when asked about the U.S. potentially banning Russian oil.
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In 2021, the U.S. imported about 700,000 barrels per day of crude oil and petroleum from Russia, according to the White House. The Europeans imported about 4.5 million barrels per day of oil.
Currently, Russian imports account for about a third of Europe’s oil imports, Psaki said Monday.
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The Biden administration has released oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to ease prices.
But the national average for a regular gallon of gas broke the all-time record in the United States on Tuesday.
The average cost was $4.17, an increase of more than 50 cents from last week, according to AAA.
The administration has been talking with large oil producers and suppliers around the world about how to mitigate the impact.
Psaki was pressed Monday about conversations administration officials have had with oil-producing Venezuela, Iran and Saudi Arabia – countries accused of committing human rights abuses or other troublesome acts. She said discussions with those countries have been on a range of issues.
“It’s in everyone’s interest to reduce the impact on the global oil marketplace,” she said.
But New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Monday that the administration’s efforts to stop Russia should not be undercut by propping up Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.
“The democratic aspirations of the Venezuelan people, much like the resolve and courage of the people of Ukraine, are worth much more than a few thousand barrels of oil,” he said in a statement.