- Nancy Pelosi joined a growing effort in calling for a ban on Russian oil imports.
- President Biden has thus far declined to support such a ban, but he has said it remains under consideration.
- Experts have said such a ban would likely lead to a hike in already high gas prices.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for a ban on Russian oil imports on Thursday, becoming the highest-ranking official to endorse a move that President Joe Biden has said is on the table but has thus far avoided enacting over fears that it would send gas prices skyrocketing.
“I’m all for that. Ban it,” Pelosi told reporters during her weekly press conference.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki swiftly knocked down the renewed focus on a ban, reiterating the administration’s view that such an action would cause an increase in gas prices.
“We don’t have a strategic interest in reducing the global supply of energy, and that would raise prices at the gas pump for the American people,” Psaki told reporters.
Sens. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, and Lisa Murkowski, an Alaskan Republican, have proposed legislation that would enact such a ban into law. Murkowski told Politico that such a ban would be worth whatever pain American consumers would feel in response.
“We are going to see price increases,” Murkowski told the outlet. “Nobody wants to see that. And this is going to hurt. But we all need to recognize Europe is in the midst of a war with Russia now. Innocent people are dying, children are dying. We have not been in as volatile a situation as anytime in my life. And so we are looking right now from a very short window.”
Brent Crude, the international benchmark, has closed at $110 a barrel in recent days even as the US and other nations have pledged to tap their emergency reserves. The US imports the majority of its imports of crude oil and petroleum products from Canada, according to The Wall Street Journal. But Russia still owns a significant slice of the US market, roughly 8% of US oil and refined product imports come from Russia last year or approximately or 672,000 barrels a day.
“The market panic is here,” Louise Dickson, senior oil market analyst at Rystad Energy told CNN. “The initial upward price reaction after the conflict in Ukraine started six days ago is only intensifying.”
Dickson told the network that Biden did not want to “topple the global oil markets” or “impact the American people more with higher energy and gas prices,” but Pelosi’s endorsement only adds to the political pressure on the White House to go after a vulnerable part of the Russian economy that has thus far mostly avoided the crippling US and Western-imposed sanctions.
Russia, the world’s third-largest oil producer, depends on the energy market to power its economy. Oil and gas revenues contribute as much as 1/5th to the nation’s gross domestic product.
On Thursday, Lukoil, Russia’s second-largest oil producer, publicly denounced the war in Ukraine in the face of calls for a boycott of its American-owned gas stations. CNN reported that Lukoil has 230 individually-owned stations in the US. Newark, New Jersey became one of the first cities to revoke the licenses of Lukoil stations, a move that comes amid a slew of other boycotts of Russian products, including Russian-produced vodka.