Biden faces bipartisan pressure to ban Russian energy imports

by mcardinal

Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News


Of late, Republicans and Democrats in both houses of Congress have been ramping up their calls for President Joe Biden to forbid U.S. companies to buy oil, liquified natural gas, petroleum, or coal from Russia. Thursday, a bill emerged that boasts enough bicameral support that it could quickly find its way to the president’s desk.

Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) have announced the creation of the Ban Russian Energy Imports Act, which will be paired with a similar act soon to be introduced in the House by Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Penn.) and Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.).

“The world is watching in shock as Russia wages an unprovoked war on Ukraine, killing innocents as it attempts to destroy a fragile democracy,” Murkowski said. “While the Biden administration has taken noteworthy steps to try to convince Vladimir Putin and his regime to stand down, we need an all-encompassing approach that uses every viable tool at our disposal.”

“By leaving Russia’s energy exports untouched, the United States is ignoring one of our most potent options to stop the bloodshed. We must ban Russia’s energy imports into the U.S. so that Americans aren’t forced to help finance their growing atrocities and halt the Russian aggression. I’m proud to sponsor this bill with Senator Manchin and urge the Senate to pass it immediately” Murkowski added.

The act already has attracted 16 cosignatories – eight Republicans, seven Democrats, and Angus King, an independent from Maine who closely aligns with the Democrats.

Were the act to become law, it would designate Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as having created a national security, foreign policy, and economic emergency in the United States and direct President Biden to ban all imports of Russian energy.

“The United States should not be relying on a malignant, war-hungry Putin to address our energy needs – and we shouldn’t be funding Russia’s efforts to occupy a peaceful nation,” King said. “As long as Russia continues its brutal campaign against the Ukrainian people, the U.S. must take its business elsewhere.”

Manchin and Murkowski’s bill was the second such act introduced in the Senate this week.

Tuesday, Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who is also a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, announced the Severing Putin’s Immense Gains from Oil Transfers, or SPIGOT, Act.

Markey’s act would not declare a national emergency, but would result in similar import prohibitions. Additionally, the SPIGOT Act would require the creation of a report that identifies which companies and individuals do business with Russian entities and the extent to which those associations aid Russian President Vladimir Putin or human rights abuses.

“American fossil fuel companies helped fuel Putin’s despicable war on Ukraine to the tune of billions, propping up the oil-garchs and cronies that keep him in power,” Markey said. “There is no separating Russian oil from the corruption and human rights abuses of the Putin regime. We cannot criticize Europe for its reliance on Russian energy, as we pour dirty oil money into Russia. We cannot stop Putin with Russia’s gas in our cars.”

Markey’s proposal is likely to gain little or no ground with Republicans, though, as it also contains language about creating “a comprehensive strategy to prioritize carbon free energy as an alternative to Russian crude oil and petroleum.”

Even Democrats who agree with Markey’s recommendation that the U.S. find green energy replacements for Russian oil have aligned themselves with the Manchin-Murkowski act.

Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.) said, “Putin is selling us Russian oil to pay for his brutality in Ukraine. Let’s end Russian oil imports today and accelerate the deployment of renewable energy sources so we never use it again.” However, he made these remarks as he threw his support and signature behind Manchin and Murkowski.

Even if the Manchin and Murkowski’s act would only end imports and not address green or clean energy, it has one element working squarely in its favor: it is a plan likely to satisfy almost all Republicans, the party that has been calling for a ban on Russian imports since the beginning of that nation’s invasion of Ukraine.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has not officially endorsed either Senate bill, but he has expressed a desire to get America off of Russian gas.

“Today and [every day] for the foreseeable future America will buy 600,000 barrels of oil from the butcher #Putin,” Rubio tweeted Thursday. “[Let’s] stop buying oil of #Russia and replace it with oil we produce right here in America.”

Similarly, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) listed an attack on Russian energy profits as necessary to end Putin’s aggression.

“Right now the US must do 3 things,” Cruz tweeted, “Make sanctions against Nord Stream 2 permanent. Impose severe economic sanctions on Russia including blocking energy exports. Supply Ukraine with lethal aid. But President Biden has shown little resolve to stop Putin.”

Any act might prove ceremonial at this point. U.S. public sentiment is so resolutely anti-Putin that companies are being careful to not come across as sympathetic to or in business with Russia. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, no United States company imported crude oil from Russia last week.