August 12, 2022

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Lawmakers from both parties say banning Russian oil may be worth the ‘hurt’ [Video]

Lawmakers from both parties say banning Russian oil may be worth the ‘hurt’ [Video]

The Biden administration’s sanction strategy hinges on levying severe sanctions on pretty much every facet of the Russian economy except energy. But that plan is getting more and more pushback in Washington, even from some members of Biden’s own party.

Russia is the world’s second-largest producer of natural gas and third-largest producer of crude oil, And while the energy market has begun to impose a sort of ‘de facto ban,’ the sanctions were designed to try to minimize the impact on global energy prices.

“I don’t think any American today wants to have a single gallon of Russian gas in their cars,” Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) said in a Yahoo Finance Live interview Wednesday, adding, “We import about 600,000 barrels a day and those barrels are stained with Ukrainian blood.”

And in an interview with Politico, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) added that blocking Russian oil is worth it, even as she acknowledged “this is going to hurt.” She says Americans “need to recognize Europe is in the midst of a war with Russia now.” Murkowski is teaming up with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) on a forthcoming bill to ban the importing of Russian crude oil and petroleum products into the United States.

Chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Joe Manchin (D-WV) speaks with Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) during a hearing on a budget request for the Department of the Interior for 2022 on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 27, 2021. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) speaks with Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) during a hearing in 2021. (REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

From Biden’s left flank comes Ed Markey (D-MA). The liberal senator who has helped lead the effort on the Green New Deal also reportedlyhas plans to introduce his own bill banning imports. But Markey comes at the issue from a different perspective — he wants to use the opportunity to supercharge the green energy sector.

And another influential name joined the push Thursday when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi voiced her support for the stopping oil imports from Russia during her weekly press conference. “I’m all for that,” she said “ban it.”

“The United States has an abundance of natural resources and until we can all get on electric cars, know that when you are filling your car with gas, there is Russian oil in there,” says Mace.

Many are expecting Republicans to capitalize on the issue either way during the upcoming midterm elections.

Republicans know they can criticize Biden for giving Putin a lifeline if he keeps the oil flowing. But they can also attack him for high gas prices if he cuts off the oil and energy prices shoot up further.

As of Thursday, the national average for a gallon of gas was $3.78, according to AAA, with California on the cusp of $5-a-gallon gas.

While Biden and his aides have repeatedly said that nothing is off the table, they note that unintended consequences could flow from any attempt to interfere in global energy markets. For example, any action that spikes the price of oil could help Putin make more money from the oil he is able to send to places like China.

Also, as Jen Psaki recently noted, ideas such as restarting the Keystone Pipeline or giving out new oil leases would take too long and are “a misdiagnosis of what needs to happen.” She says the administration’s focus remains on reducing dependence on foreign oil more gradually through different means.

This story has been updated to reflect new comments from Nancy Pelosi.

Ben Werschkul is a writer and producer for Yahoo Finance in Washington, DC.

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