How US ban on Russian oil will affect consumers

Image shows Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) with Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov in 2018. Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Image

President Joe Biden announced Tuesday that the US will ban Russian energy imports as part of sanctions responding to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The embargo will include oil, liquefied natural gas and coal. 

“That means Russian oil will no longer be acceptable at US ports, and the American people will deal another blow to the Putin war machine,” the president said in a press conference.

The British government also plans to phase out Russian refined oil, though not gasoline, according to Bloomberg

Other European nations have been hesitant to make such a move: Germany, the biggest buyer of Russian crude, has rejected plans to ban energy imports, Reuters reported. Chancellor Olaf Scholz said the country is speeding up plans to increase the use of alternative energy sources.

Russia is the world’s largest exporter of crude and oil products, providing roughly 30% of the EU’s crude supply and almost 40% of its gasoline. It’s also the third-largest oil producer, behind the US and Saudi Arabia. Analysts have warned that shutting off that pipeline could have a seismic impact on energy markets and the global economy.

Here’s what you need to know about the sanctions, including how the US ban on Russian oil will impact the economy and if other nations will follow suit.

Russia is one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of crude, but only provides about 8% of imports in the US, which gets most of its oil and petroleum imports from Canada, Mexico and Saudi Arabia. 

In the short term, however, the US embargo will push stateside gas prices — which, on average, hit $4.17 a gallon on Tuesday — even higher.

Analysts at Capital Economics told CBS News a complete ban on Russian energy imports would push Brent crude, the global benchmark, up to $160 a barrel, well past the all-time high of $147, from 2008. 

To counter some of that shortage, the US and its allies have released strategic reserves, which will ease prices at least for a few weeks.  

To limit the impact of higher prices, the US and international partners are releasing oil from reserves. The Biden administration has also been negotiating Iran’s reentry into a nuclear-control agreement — which would bring Iranian oil back into play — and restoring relations with Venezuela, which has been banned from selling oil to the US since 2018. 

Are other countries sanctioning Russian oil?

Europe has become more open to the idea of a ban in recent days, but only the UK has announced plans to “phase out” Russian energy products. To date, only the US and Canada have banned oil imports from Russia.

Russia is one of the world’s largest exporters of crude oil, providing 20% of the EU’s supply. Germany, its biggest client, has made it clear it has no intention of cutting off that source. Scholz, the chancellor, did did suspend certification of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, intended to transport natural gas from Russia to Germany via the Baltic Sea, after Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized the independence of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Japan is also discussing an embargo on Russian oil. “We still have several more options at hand for sanctions,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said, according to Kyoto News. “We will carefully look at them and implement them.”  

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Some Western refineries are already refusing to buy Russian crude, with roughly 70% of the country’s output “struggling to find buyers,” Energy Aspects told Financial Times.

How has the US sanctioned Russia so far?

On Feb. 24, Biden first announced “devastating” economic sanctions and export limits against Russia intended to “impose a severe cost on the Russian economy, both immediately and over time.”

They have included blocking the country’s major banks from doing business in the US, issuing debt and equity restrictions on Russian-owned enterprises, freezing the assets of wealthy Putin allies and limiting imports of technology to the country.

On March 2, the White House imposed sanctions on nearly two dozen Russian defense companies that produce missiles, combat aircraft, drones, infantry vehicles and “electronic warfare systems.”    

The same day, the Biden administration took aim at Belarus, which borders both Russia and Ukraine, by limiting the export of military technology and other goods “in response to its support of Putin’s war of choice.” 

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko has been accused of hosting Russian forces in his country as a staging ground for the invasion of Ukraine.

Last week, eight Putin allies and their families were singled out for sanctions, including billionaire brothers Boris and Arkady Rotenberg, industrialist Alisher Usmanov and Nikolai Tokarev, president of the Russian pipeline company Transneft. Visa restrictions were announced on an additional 19 oligarchs and 47 of their family members and close associates.

They join members of Putin’s inner circle already hit with travel bans, frozen assets and other penalties, including Russian Defense Minister Sergei K. Shoigu, oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin and Margarita Simonyan, the head of state television network RT.   

International sanctions

The first round of European Union sanctions included blacklisting Russian politicians and halting European trade with Donetsk and Luhansk, breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine whose independence Moscow has recognized.

The EU has frozen Russian assets and blocked Russian banks’ access to European financial markets. Along with the US, Australia, Canada and other countries, the European Commission worked to remove Russia’s access to SWIFT, a critical global financial messaging system.

According to EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, EU sanctions have targeted the lion’s share of the Russian banking sector and major state-owned companies and limited Russia’s access to aerospace and computer technology. 

She added that the sanctions are intended to not only hit the Russian economy but Putin’s inner circle directly.  

“We are also targeting Russian elites by curbing their deposits so that they cannot hide their money anymore in safe havens in Europe,” she said. The EU has already levied personal sanctions against Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

The UK sanctioned at least 100 individuals and entities, including Putin and Lavrov, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced last week. On March 8, it was reported the UK would begin “phasing out” Russian energy products.

South Korea announced last week that it’s banned exports of electronics, semiconductors, computers and communications technology, among other goods.   

New Zealand, which already prohibits exports to the Russian military, announced new legislation on Monday that would allow it to freeze assets of major Russian companies and wealthy elites and keep New Zealand from being a haven for Russian oligarchs by stopping private jets and yachts owned by sanctioned elites from entering the country.

Repercussions of Russian sanctions

On Monday, word of a US ban on Russian oil spiked prices for West Texas Intermediate crude, the US benchmark, 4.5%, to highs of more than $124 a barrel. 

Brent crude, the international standard, similarly jumped 5%, to nearly $129 a barrel.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said that foreign bans on Russian oil “would lead to catastrophic consequences for the global market.” Speaking on state television on Monday, Novak predicted prices for crude would “$300 per barrel, if not more.” 

Those estimates are far out of line with other predictions, but banning Russian oil would definitely increase gas prices in Europe — and, at least temporarily, in the US.

Russia has also threatened to close Nord Stream 1, a pipeline that provides some 55 billion cubic meters of natural gas to Europe. (Germany halted approvals for the larger Nord Stream 2 shortly before the Russian invasion of Ukraine.)

In February, Russia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry warned of a “finely tuned and painful” response to sanctions imposed by the Biden administration — retaliatory measures that would target “sensitive” US assets.

“There should be no doubt that sanctions will receive a strong response, not necessarily symmetrical, but finely tuned and painful to the American side,” a ministry representative said in a statement, CNN reported

Russia would be able to “minimize the damage” of US actions, they added. “And even more so, sanctions pressure is not able to affect our determination to firmly defend our interests.”

While the ministry didn’t specify what form that response would take, the US departments of Treasury and Homeland Security have sounded the alarm over potential cyberattacks on US banks, hospitals, government offices and power grids.

In addition, Russia is a major producer of platinum and the largest exporter of palladium, a metal used in automotive exhaust systems, fuel cells, mobile phones and even jewelry and dental fillings. 

Rising prices of essential metals could lead to price increases for manufacturers and, ultimately, consumers.