President Joe Biden declared on Tuesday, March 8, the United States will ban imports of Russian oil as part of the international response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Western-allied countries are working to cut off Russia from the global economy to penalize Russian President Vladimir Putin for his aggression.

“Today I am announcing the United States is targeting the main artery of Russia’s economy. We’re banning all imports of Russian oil and gas and energy. That means Russian oil will no longer be acceptable at U.S. ports and the American people will deal another powerful blow to Putin’s war machine. This is a step we’re taking to inflict further pain on Putin,” Biden said at the White House.

The United Kingdom also declared its own restrictions on buying Russian oil imports just before Biden’s speech, stating it will take out the nation’s imports by the end of the year. Also on Tuesday, the European Union disclosed a plan to detach itself from Russian fossil fuels.

“We simply cannot rely on a supplier who explicitly threatens us,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a press statement declaring the plan.

Biden to sign executive order banning Russian oil products

According to a White House fact sheet, Biden will sign an executive order banning Russian oil, liquefied natural gas and coal imports to the United States.

A senior Biden administration official told reporters late Tuesday that the ban on new Russian oil contracts “is immediate.” The official added that no new contracts will be allowed and existing contracts for Russian oil must be canceled within 45 days.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy commended Biden’s move. “Thankful for US and @POTUS personal leadership in striking in the heart of Putin’s war machine and banning oil, gas and coal from US market. Encourage other countries and leaders to follow,” Zelensky said in a tweet on Tuesday.

According to data from the Energy Information Administration, the U.S. imports about 672,000 barrels a day from Russia last year. The said amount makes up about eight percent of the total U.S. imports of oil and refined products.

Most of America’s crude oil and petroleum imports come from Canada, Mexico and Saudi Arabia, making the country far less dependent on Russian oil than many of its European allies. 

The news of the ban, verified to CNBC by two people familiar with the matter before Biden’s speech, sent oil prices rising.

The price on West Texas Intermediate crude futures, contracts for April oil deliveries, hit $129.44 a barrel. That level is just below the $130.50 a barrel hit on Monday, March 7, which is the highest price on oil futures since 2008.

Crippling sanctions against Russia, Putin

Putin’s actions have generated an unusual international reaction with several nations imposing crippling sanctions on the Kremlin, Putin and Russia’s ultra-rich oligarchs. Russia’s currency has plunged in value and its stock market has been closed since harsh sanctions were declared by the West, while a growing record of companies have taken their business out of the country.

Among them is Shell, which swore to immediately halt all purchases of Russian crude oil and close its service stations in the country.

U.S. gas prices reached all-time highs following reports of the ban on Russian oil imports. According to AAA, the national average for a gallon of regular gas soared to a record $4.173 on Tuesday. The previous record was $4.114 from July 2008, not adjusted for inflation.

Biden admitted the latest ban will make prices worse.

“With this action, it’s going to go up further. Russia’s aggression has cost us all, and it’s no time for profiteering or price gouging,” Biden said, warning companies against exploiting the situation by raising prices.

Biden also accepted that the ban on Russian oil imports had bipartisan support in the Congress along with the common support nationwide amid the soaring gas prices.

“There will be further cost as well here in the United States. I said I would level with the American people from the beginning. When I first spoke of this in the beginning, I said defending freedom is going to cost us as well in the United States. Republicans and Democrats alike understand that. Republicans and Democrats alike have been clear that we must do this,” Biden said.

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