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Biden announces ban on Russian oil imports, other energy products

ABC News 3/9/2022

President Joe Biden announced Tuesday that the U.S. will ban imports of Russian oil and other energy products, but will not be joined in doing so by many European allies and partners.

The move is expected to trigger sharply higher gasoline and other energy prices in the U.S. and worldwide.

Speaking from the White House, he said "the United States is targeting the main artery of Russia's economy" and said it means "the American people will deal another powerful blow to Putin's war machine."

The decision was made in "close consultation" with U.S. allies, Biden said, some of whom he said would not be "in a position" to do the same, but he stressed the alliance remained united.

President Joe Biden announces a ban on US imports of Russian oil and gas, March 8, 2022, from the Roosevelt Room of the White House. © Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images President Joe Biden announces a ban on US imports of Russian oil and gas, March 8, 2022, from the Roosevelt Room of the White House.

Biden has been under growing political pressure from both Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill to go forward with a ban even though the White House had initially resisted, saying it wasn't in the U.S. "strategic interest" to limit the world's energy supply and drive up gasoline prices.

MORE: Tough decision for Biden: Russia oil ban would trigger higher gas prices

On Monday, top lawmakers announced they had come to a deal on bipartisan legislation that would punish Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, by banning the import of Russian oil and other energy products -- as well as suspending normal trade relations with Russia and a House vote was expected this week.

MORE: Red-hot prices at the gas pump set to soar even higher. Here's why A motorist pumps gasoline at a gas station in Lafayette, Calif., March 6 ,2022. © Jocelyn Gecker/AP A motorist pumps gasoline at a gas station in Lafayette, Calif., March 6 ,2022.

Biden's announcement is likely to cause gasoline prices in the U.S. -- already at record highs -- to soar even higher.

"I'm going to do everything I can to minimize Putin's price hike here at home," Biden said.

"To the oil and gas companies and to the finance firms that back them, we understand Putin's war against the people of Ukraine is causing prices to rise. We get that. That's self-evident," he said. "But, it's no excuse to exercise excessive price increases or padding profits or any kind of effort to exploit the situation or -- American consumers, exploit them. Russia's aggression is costing us all. And it's no time for profiteering or price gouging. I want to be clear about what we'll not tolerate."

As he arrived in Fort Worth, Texas, Tuesday afternoon, Biden took a quick question from reporters about his message on gas prices.

"They're gonna go up," Biden said. "Can't do much right now. Russia's responsible," he added.

About 8% of U.S. imports of crude oil and petroleum products came from Russia last year, according to preliminary U.S. government data; 3% of U.S. oil came from Russia.

White House officials also say the impact on Russia, which sent just 1% of its oil exports to the U.S. in 2020, would not be great -- especially when its oil and gas sector is already "de facto sanctioned" because of harsh restrictions on Russian banks.

But in an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll last week, 69% of Americans said they supported economic sanctions on Russia even if they resulted in higher energy prices in the U.S.

There is less appetite in Europe for a ban on Russian oil and gas imports, since European nations rely heavily on Russia for their energy needs -- nearly half of Russian oil exports go to Europe, according to U.S. government figures -- and analysts say a ban would raise Europe's energy prices significantly.

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