WASHINGTON (AP) – Amid the escalating war in Ukraine, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday she supports banning Russian oil imports to the United States (US), a hefty nod that could strengthen President Joe Biden’s hand as global allies seek to isolate Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime.
Biden has been reluctant to curb Russian oil shipments to the US or slap on energy sanctions in ways that would reduce supply as gas prices at the pump are already climbing for Americans. But Pelosi’s support gives fresh currency for an idea in Congress already backed by wide swaths of Republicans and an increasing number of Democrats. The White House has said all tools remain on the table.
“I’m all for that,” Pelosi said about ending Russian oil in the US. “Ban it.”
Finding common ground to counter Russian aggression toward Ukraine through energy policy would be a breakthrough for the divided Congress, which has shown remarkable resolve in unifying US support for Ukrainians but has struggled over concrete steps that would help the Western-style democracy battle the Russian invasion.
A Russian oil ban could draw momentary alliance of lawmakers on the left and right – Democrats fighting climate change who want to lessen the US reliance on fossil fuels; Republicans who want to boost US energy production at home; and the great majority of lawmakers of both parties who want to stop Putin’s war.
Republicans have been pushing for the Russian oil ban, joined by some Democrats eager to punish Putin. “What if we crush the oil and gas sector of the Russian economy?” said Senator Lindsey Graham. “That would be a lethal combination for the Russian economy.”
Sen Ed Markey, a liberal Democrat from Massachusetts and a leading advocate of climate change strategies, also backs an import ban. “We cannot criticise Europe for its reliance on Russian energy as we pour dirty oil money into Russia,” he said
Still, Biden has resisted, fearing a ban could further disrupt global markets and raise already high prices at the pump. He also risks backlash from climate change activists who said US officials must not use the Ukraine war to expand oil or gas drilling in the US, a step Republicans have been urging. Gas prices in the US averaged nearly USD3.73 a gallon on Thursday, up almost USD1 from a year ago, according to AAA motor club.