The United States is open to imposing sanctions on Russia’s gas and oil flows but fear going after the country’s exports could end up helping Moscow instead, according to the White House.
The news comes as oil supply disruptions increased and oil prices surged to an 11-year-high.
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Biden administration slapped new sanctions on technology exports to the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline and Russia’s refineries.
The sanctions stop short of targeting Russia’s gas and oil exports as the Biden administration continues to weigh the impacts on U.S. energy prices and global oil markets.
According to White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre, “We don’t have a strategic interest in reducing global supply of energy — that would raise prices at the gas pump for Americans.”
The Biden administration warned that it could still block Russian oil if Moscow heightens its aggression toward Ukraine.
“It’s very much on the table, but we need to weigh what all of the impacts will be,” said Jen Psaki, White House spokesperson.
White House hesitant
According to Bharat Ramamurti, the National Economic Council’s deputy director, the White House is not prepared to make a move yet.
“Going after Russian oil and gas at this point would have an effect on U.S. consumers and actually could be counterproductive in terms of raising the price of oil and gas internationally, which could mean more profits for the Russian oil industry,” he explained. “So we don’t want to go there right now.”
The Biden administration is looking to maintain the global supply of energy while looking to cut U.S. consumption of Russian oil, according to White House deputy national security adviser Daleep Singh.
“There are other producers in the world that could backfill for any Russian oil we don’t import,” he said.
The administration continues with caution, saying it has not yet targeted Russian oil sales due to its sweeping economic sanctions against Moscow.
Banks and traders have shied away from Russian oil shipments via tankers and pipelines not to be seen as sending the energy markets into disarray by appearing to fund the invasion.
Some U.S. lawmakers have pushed for legislation that many analysts say could lead to higher gasoline prices at the pump.
A Republican and top Democrat on the Senate energy committee floated a bill prohibiting the import of Russian liquid fuels, liquefied natural gas, and crude.
The United States imports an average of more than 20.4 million barrels of refined products and crude per month from Russia. According to the Energy Information Administration, Russian imports amount to about 8% of U.S. liquid fuel imports.
Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski and Democrat Senator Joe Manchin are working together to support their bill.
The U.S. slapped Russia’s oil refineries with sanctions, effectively banning the export of specific technologies. This could make it more difficult for Russia to modernize its plants.
The United States and its allies recently agreed to release 60 million barrels of oil reserves to help offset disruptions to the supply chain.