Fact Check

Was the US Still Buying Oil From Russia in Early 2022?

The U.S. was looking into banning imports from Russia, however.

Published Mar 7, 2022

sdr (RG72/Wikimedia Commons)
sdr (Image Via RG72/Wikimedia Commons)
Claim:
The United States was still importing energy products, including oil, from Russia after the latter invaded Ukraine in early 2022.
Context

However, the U.S. was exploring a possible bill that would ban imports of Russian oil and other energy products. Furthermore, the U.S. imports a majority of its energy products from other countries.

The U.S. and European countries began isolating Russia economically since its invasion of Ukraine in late February 2022.

At the same time, U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration came under fire from right-wing media for its reported dependence on Russian oil. Fox News host Sean Hannity claimed on his show, “This oil is Putin's lifeblood, and it is and has always been. And to me, it's just incomprehensible and frankly unconscionable that despite these terrifying war crimes that you see unfolding every day and night against men, women and children, that the Biden administration continues to buy this thug's oil.”

He said that Russia was selling billions of dollars worth of oil to the U.S. and European countries, and was effectively enabling Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine.

The U.S. does import oil and other energy products from Russia. However, in March 2022, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the U.S. government was “exploring” options to ban all imports of Russian oil and energy products. "Our bill would ban the import of Russian oil and energy products into the United States, repeal normal trade relations with Russia and Belarus, and take the first step to deny Russia access to the World Trade Organization,” she said.

White House spokesperson Jen Psaki discussed the possibility on Feb. 25, 2022, saying “on the energy sector, no option is off the table.”

Psaki added that cutting imports could have harmful effects in the U.S.:

But again, to go back to [...] some of the principles here, our sanctions are designed to harm Russia’s economy, not our economy, and that’s a key balance that we’re clearly trying to strike. [...]

The other factor here on the energy sector is that starting out with energy or — could actually benefit President Putin and pad his pockets because, given high oil and gas prices, cutting off Russian oil and gas could drive prices up to Putin’s benefit.

How Much Energy Does US Import from Russia?

According to the latest data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), in 2020 total Russian petroleum (including crude oil) made up only 7% of imports. The U.S. imported 52% of its total petroleum from Canada, by comparison.

The American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) trade association said that in 2021 the U.S. imported 209,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil and 500,000 bpd of other petroleum products from Russia.

“Although Russian crude accounts for only three percent of U.S. crude oil imports and about one percent of total crude oil processed by U.S. refineries—Russian crude oil imports are important to refineries on the West Coast and Gulf Coast,” the group said, referring to 2021 numbers. By comparison, 61 percent of imports came from Canada, 10 percent from Mexico, and 6 percent from Saudi Arabia.

Russian imports of crude oil to the U.S. have increased since 2019, “to help replace heavy sour crude from Venezuela that U.S. refineries can no longer import.”

According to Adam Pankratz, a professor at the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business, one potential scenario of cutting out Russian oil would result in the U.S. relying on its strategic petroleum reserves, and so the country would not be badly affected by the loss in oil supply.

On the other hand, Pankratz told Al Jazeera, “If the U.S. stopped importing Russian oil, that would mean that likely many other countries would also no longer be importing Russian oil, and that would make a very tight oil market already much tighter, and that would drive up the price of oil and that in turn can drive inflation, which in turn can affect the US economy.”

AFPM suggested policies that could blunt the impact of reducing Russian energy supplies:

While there is no near-term, silver-bullet policy to blunt the impact of geopolitical disruptions of the market, pursuing policies that allow domestic production to return to pre-pandemic levels will help to provide market stability and insulate not only the U.S. but the world from major disruptions. Policymakers can also provide relief from policies that increase the cost of producing refined product and policies that make it uneconomic to transport crude oil and petroleum products domestically.

Nearly half of Russia’s overall exports are of crude oil, petroleum, and natural gas. According to Russia’s finance ministry, the country made around $119 billion in oil and gas revenue in 2021. In October 2021, the country made almost $500 million per day from oil and gas sales. The E.U., U.K. and U.S. together accounted for about half of Russia’s goods exports in 2021, which means they are effectively providing a significant chunk of Russia’s revenue from energy exports.

The U.S. is still importing Russian energy products. However, the U.S. is not as reliant on them as a source of energy as expected, and is considering legislation that bans imports from Russia. We therefore rate this claim as “True.”


Sources:

Colton, Graham. “Hannity Labels Biden Administration’s Dependence on Russian Oil ‘Unconscionable.’” Fox News, 4 Mar. 2022, https://www.foxnews.com/media/hannity-biden-administrations-dependence-russian-oil-unconscionable. Accessed 7 Mar. 2022.

“Factbox: Russia’s Oil and Gas Revenue Windfall.” Reuters, 21 Jan. 2022. www.reuters.com, https://www.reuters.com/markets/europe/russias-oil-gas-revenue-windfall-2022-01-21/. Accessed 7 Mar. 2022.

Golubkova, Katya, and Oksana Kobzeva. “Russia Keeps Europe Waiting on New Gas Supplies.” Reuters, 2 Nov. 2021. www.reuters.com, https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/gazprom-fails-book-more-gas-transit-europe-despite-kremlin-reassurance-2021-11-02/. Accessed 7 Mar. 2022.

"How Much Oil Does the US Import from Russia?" Al Jazeera, 3 Mar. 2022. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/3/3/how-much-oil-does-the-us-import-from-russia. Accessed 7 Mar. 2022.

Korhonen, Iika, and Heli Simola. "How Important Are Russia’s External Economic Links?" Bank of Finland Institute for Emerging Economies, 17 Feb. 2022, https://helda.helsinki.fi/bof/bitstream/handle/123456789/18304/bpb2202.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y. Accessed 7 Mar. 2022.

"Oil and Petroleum Imports from Russia Explained." AFPM.org, 25 Feb. 2022. https://www.afpm.org/newsroom/blog/oil-and-petroleum-imports-russia-explained. Accessed 7 Mar. 2022.

"Oil Imports and Exports." U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/oil-and-petroleum-products/imports-and-exports.php. Accessed 7 Mar. 2022.

“Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki, February 25, 2022.” The White House, 26 Feb. 2022, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/press-briefings/2022/02/25/press-briefing-by-press-secretary-jen-psaki-february-25-2022/.

Thompson, Mark and Vasco Cotovio. “Russia Says Its Economy Is Taking ‘serious Blows’ as Isolation Grows.” CNN, 2 Mar. 2022. https://www.cnn.com/2022/03/02/business/russia-markets-economy-sberbank/index.html. Accessed 7 Mar. 2022.

“U.S. Congress to ‘explore’ Russian Oil Ban, Enact $10 Bln in Aid for Ukraine This Week -House Speaker Pelosi.” Reuters, 7 Mar. 2022. https://www.reuters.com/world/us-congress-explore-russian-oil-ban-enact-10-bln-aid-ukraine-this-week-house-2022-03-07/. Accessed 7 Mar. 2022.

"U.S. Imports of Crude Oil and Petroleum Products from Russia." AFPM.org, 2021, https://www.afpm.org/sites/default/files/issue_resources/U.S.%20Imports%20of%20Oil%20%26%20Petroleum%20from%20Russia.pdf. Accessed 7 Mar. 2022.

 

Nur Nasreen Ibrahim is a reporter with experience working in television, international news coverage, fact checking, and creative writing.

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