Manchin Leads Bipartisan Bill to Ban Imports of Russian Oil

Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) on March 3 unveiled legislation that would ban the importation of Russian oil. The same legislation was introduced in the House by Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.).

Manchin first called for an end to Russian imports of oil on March 1.

Despite the U.S. condemnation of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Manchin noted that we are still importing roughly 500,000 barrels of Russian oil per day. Manchin called this policy “hypocritical,” and demanded that President Joe Biden move to increase U.S. oil production and to ban Russian oil imports.

Upon taking office, Biden, citing an alleged “climate crisis,” overturned several Trump-era policies that saw the United States become energy independent for the first time in decades.

Most notably, Biden ended construction on the Keystone XL pipeline—which has been staunchly opposed by environmental groups since President Barack Obama’s time in office—and placed a moratorium on the leasing of federal lands to oil and natural gas producers.

As early as November 2021, Manchin, who has long been skeptical of his party’s environmental alarmists, called on Biden to restart construction on the Keystone pipeline.

On the afternoon of March 3, Manchin, flanked by members from both chambers of Congress and both parties, renewed calls to increase U.S. oil production and to decrease its dependence on Russian oil. These two policies, he said, would help the United States to support its allies and further cripple Russia’s economy.

“The United States has the ability to backfill and help all of our allies around the world as [Russia] uses energy as a weapon,” Manchin said.

“We [produce energy] cleaner than anybody else; we do it in a better fashion than anyone else,” Manchin continued. “We have the ability with [U.S. oil] reserves to do much more during this crisis.”

Manchin’s bill has already won wide bipartisan and bicameral support.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a GOP swing-voter who has long worked with Manchin on various issues, said the bill is one that “can make a difference, can get Putin’s attention.”

Since his invasion of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin has suffered debilitating sanctions from most of the Western world, including sanctions barring many major Russian banks from using the SWIFT payment system. These sanctions have already cut the value of the ruble almost in half.

The bill, house co-sponsor Gottheimer noted, “would cut Putin off from his largest revenue source,” further isolating the Russian economy from the world.

Earlier on March 1, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)—who has almost complete control over what does and does not come to the House floor—tentatively gave her support to the bill.

However, Pelosi said she opposes efforts to increase U.S. oil production, which Manchin has said is a critical aspect of keeping Americans’ gas prices down.

Despite efforts by Democrats to incentivize the use of electric vehicles, the American people still rely on oil-based fuels for almost all of their travel.

Thus, as the domestically-produced supply of oil has fallen, the United States has become dependent on the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and Russia. In turn, the price of energy—particularly gasoline—has risen dramatically, far outstripping the rate of overall inflation.

According to the most recent Consumer Price Index data released by the U.S. Department of Labor, prices have increased by 7.5 percent on average over the past 12 months. The price of gasoline, by contrast, has increased by 40 percent.

If the United States banned Russian oil without an increase in domestic production, further limiting the supply of oil, consumers could see prices rise even further.

Though Manchin has called for Biden to change course, the decision to reverse U.S. energy policy is largely in Biden’s hands.

Still, many Democrats—particularly left-wing progressive Democrats—remain staunchly opposed to increasing the extraction of U.S. fossil fuels, and would likely decry efforts to reverse the current energy policies of the United States.

Canada, which is the world’s fifth-largest oil producer despite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s nominal opposition to fossil fuels, has already banned the importation of Russian oil.

From The Epoch Times