Two key US senators have joined voices calling for an immediate end to imports of Russian crude oil, after UK and Canada moved to restrict the flows as Ukraine remains under attack.
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Senator Ed Markey, Democrat-Massachusetts, introduced a bill March 1 to prohibit all imports of Russian crude and refined products into the US, subject to a presidential national security waiver.
Markey's bill -- the Severing Putin's Immense Gains from Oil Transfers Act -- would require a report identifying entities involved in the shipments and their links to Russian President Vladimir Putin and other sanctioned individuals. It would also require a comprehensive strategy to prioritize carbon-free energy as an alternative to Russian oil.
US Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat-West Virginia, urged President Joe Biden to impose a ban on Russian oil imports and work to increase domestic production in the name of increasing US energy security.
"To continue to ask other countries to do what we can do for ourselves in a cleaner way is hypocritical," said Manchin, who holds outsized influence over the Biden administration's climate and energy policy. "To continue to rely on Russian energy as they attack Ukraine is senseless."
UK and Canadian leaders have vowed in recent days to restrict Russian oil imports, and Ukraine has appealed to Western governments for a full oil and gas embargo.
Biden was set to address energy security, escalating sanctions against Russia and an updated vision for climate policy late March 1 during his first State of the Union speech to Congress.
US imports of Russian crude oil have averaged roughly 13,500 b/d since Jan. 1, down from an average of 199,000 b/d in 2021, according to the latest US Energy Information Administration and Census Bureau data. The US imported 672,000 b/d of total crude and refined products in 2021, including VGO and unfinished oils.
Leaving it to private sector
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's promise to block Russian oil imports could significantly increase pressure on Washington to do the same, even though the volumes to Canada are limited, analyst Rachel Ziemba of Ziemba Insights said Feb. 28.
As Russian oil continues to arrive in US ports, White House press secretary Jen Psaki was asked Feb. 28 if the Biden administration planned to block the flows.
"The US government doesn't dictate where the US market sells our own oil and gas products nor where it acquires crude or refined products for domestic consumption," she said at a White House briefing. "This is all up to the private sector other than exceptions like countries under sanctions."