US Is Planning to Ban Russian Oil Imports

The Biden administration is planning to announce a ban on Russian oil imports into the US on Tuesday, according to people familiar with the matter.

The administration’s deliberations about the ban have ramped up as lawmakers of both parties, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, called for action on the issue. President Biden is scheduled to deliver remarks on the crisis in Ukraine at the White House on Tuesday morning.

The White House declined to comment and the Treasury Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The US and its allies in Europe have unleashed a wave of sanctions against Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine, but they have largely avoided targeting the country’s oil sector, the lifeblood of its economy, out of fear that limiting oil sales could cause crude prices to spike globally. Oil prices have already risen 58% since the beginning of the year and on Monday neared $ 140 a barrel.

Mr. Biden has said he wants to do everything he can to insulate Americans from continued oil and gasoline-price increases, and some of his advisers have raised concerns that a ban on Russian imports could exacerbate pain at the pump.

Biden administration officials and other allies of the White House worried privately that gasoline-price increases resulting from the ban could be a political liability for Democrats, some of the people said, noting that Republicans have already been criticizing the president over prices for months. The average price for regular gasoline in the US hit $ 4,173 a gallon, a record high, AAA said Tuesday.

In recent days, as Russia continued its assault on Ukraine, the administration has taken a more serious look at the ban, the people familiar with the internal discussions said.

In a video call on Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appealed directly to US lawmakers to support a ban on Russian oil imports. Bipartisan legislation in the House and Senate has picked up support from dozens of lawmakers.

On Monday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) Said the House could take up a bill to ban Russian imports as soon as this week. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., NY) has not indicated what the Senate would do.

Mrs. Pelosi told House Democrats on Tuesday morning that she planned to move ahead with legislation banning Russian oil imports, according to a Democratic aide. She said the White House had been telling her for days that they would impose the ban, the aide said.

The White House had sought to persuade Democrats not to move forward with the legislation because they were planning an executive action, according to a person familiar with the matter.


Ukrainians Seek Safety as Russia Presses Its Attack

The mass flight from the fighting in Ukraine continued as Russian forces launched strikes on cities and military targets.

Residents fled from fighting in the town of Irpin, Ukraine, near the front line on the outskirts of Kyiv, on Monday.

roman pilipey / Shutterstock

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In addition to banning Russian oil imports, the bill would repeal normal trade relations with Russia and its ally Belarus, which has been a staging ground for the Russian offensive. It would also take an initial step to deny Russia access to the World Trade Organization and give the Biden administration the power to raise tariffs on Russian imports.

“We’re supportive of what the administration is doing, but our legislation is a lot broader and deals with trade issues,” Rep. Andy Levin (D., Mich.) Said when asked why the House is proceeding with a vote on the package.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that the president had not decided whether to take executive action to ban Russian oil imports or whether he would sign the bill if it was sent to his desk.

Russia is the world’s third-largest oil producer, responsible for more than 10% of global supply, according to US Energy Information Administration data. Its exports account for 7% of the world market, half of that going into Europe, according to analysts.

The price for gasoline in the US hit a record high, tracking a surge in global energy markets.


Photo:

Manuel Balce Ceneta / Associated Press

Europe’s reliance on Russian oil makes any decision about banning Russian imports on the continent particularly complicated. US officials said they had been in regular communication with allies in Europe as they discussed the ban.

Oil analysts have said that sanctions previously imposed on Russia have already discouraged banks and oil companies from buying the country’s crude, and the sharp increase in oil prices in recent days is a sign the market expects further disruptions. Exxon Mobil Corp., BP PLC and Shell PLC all announced plans to exit Russian operations last week. Shell went further on Tuesday, saying it would halt all spot purchase of crude from the country and phase out its other trading and business dealings.

Though the US is the world’s biggest oil producer, it still imports millions of barrels each day from other parts of the world because the country consumes far more oil than companies extract domestically.

Russian oil makes up a small proportion of the crude that the US imports. The US gets most of its crude imports from Canada, Mexico and Saudi Arabia.

About 8% of US imports of oil and refined products, or about 672,000 barrels a day, came from Russia last year, according to EIA data. Of that, Russia’s crude made up roughly 3% of the nation’s imports, about 200,000 barrels a day.

Write to Andrew Restuccia at andrew.restuccia@wsj.com, Justin Scheck at justin.scheck@wsj.com and Vivian Salama at vivian.salama@wsj.com

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