OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – Republican elected officials in the United States have criticized President Joe Biden for his energy policies and called on his administration to do more to boost domestic production to help wean the nation and its allies from Russian oil.
So far, sanctions against Russia over its war with Ukraine do not include oil and gas exports from the country, a move that would severely damage Russia’s ability to generate revenue.
Oklahoma Republican Gov. Kevin Steet and Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman called on Biden this week to take action to stop oil imports from Russia to the U.S., where oil and gas drilling actually increased in Biden’s first year in office.
“Recent events in Ukraine are another example of why we should sell energy to our friends and not buy it from enemies,” Steet wrote to Biden.
A similar letter calling on Biden to immediately impose an embargo on all Russian energy exports was sent to the president by U.S. Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma and U.S. Senators Jerry Moran and Roger Marshall of Kansas.
The U.S. gets 5% to 10% of its crude oil and refined products from Russia, a fairly small share that they could probably replace with other sources if supplies from Russia are cut off, said Jacques Rousseau, managing director of Clearview Energy Partners.
“For the United States, this is not as big a problem as the rest of the world, because there are other countries that are much more dependent on Russian oil,” he said.
The United States does not import gas from Russia, but Europe is relying on natural gas from Russia for a third of its supplies.
Portman said there was no point in importing Russian oil after the Biden administration shut down the Keystone XL pipeline as part of its broader efforts to combat climate change and its deterioration. The pipeline was to transport 800,000 barrels of oil a day from Canada to U.S. refineries along the Persian Gulf coast.
“So we are cutting off energy supplies to North America by helping Russia by buying oil,” Portman said.
In a Republican response Tuesday to a speech on the state of the Union, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds referred to the U.S. desire to increase production and gain energy independence.
Biden defended his decision to maintain access to Russian energy to “limit the pain the American people are feeling from the gas pump.” But when asked on Wednesday whether he would consider banning Russian oil imports, Biden said: “Nothing is.”
Oil prices rose this week in response to the escalation of Russia’s war against Ukraine, increasing pressure on persistently high inflation around the world. On Wednesday, U.S. benchmark oil jumped $ 110 a barrel, making it the biggest jump in a single day since May 2020 and the highest price since 2014. The international standard for Brent crude oil rose 7.1% to $ 104.97.
Ukraine’s crisis sparked an extraordinary meeting of the International Energy Agency on Tuesday, in which all 31 member states agreed to release 60 million barrels of oil from their strategic reserves – half of that from the United States – “to send a strong message to oil markets” that supplies are not reduced.
Despite Republican criticism, oil and gas drilling in the U.S. has actually increased since Biden took office, largely due to increased demand for fuel when the economy recovers after the pandemic limits.
Natural gas production grew by 2% in 2021, the first year Biden was in office, compared to the previous year when Republican Donald Trump ruled. Exports of liquefied natural gas grew by 42% in the first six months of 2021 compared to the same period last year, according to the US Energy Information Administration. At the end of January this year, oil production increased slightly compared to the same period last year.
The reasons are different. Companies cut drilling for oil and gas at the start of the pandemic, and many did not return to the level of drilling that was before the pandemic, despite increased demand. This is partly because investors have put pressure on state-owned companies to focus more on switching to renewable or cleaner energy sources. Companies looking to increase oil and gas drilling have difficulty finding rigs, trucks and workers.
However, Republicans are calling for increased oil and gas production as a security concern for the United States and its allies.
On Monday, 25 state attorneys general, led by Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, wrote a letter against a proposed Biden administration rule banning the transportation of liquefied natural gas by rail in the United States. lease of natural gas on public lands or in seawater.
Landry added that the freezing of new lease and drilling permits on federal lands and in the Gulf of Mexico is depriving Louisiana and other states, mostly in the West, of rental income, royalties and rent. About a quarter of U.S. oil production and about 10 percent of natural gas production comes from federal lands.
In New Mexico and its part of the Permian Basin’s extensive oil fields, which have boosted U.S. energy production over the past decade, the Russian invasion of Ukraine is increasing impatience over delays by federal authorities in new oil and gas drilling on federal soil.
New Mexico Sen. Gay Kernan, a Republican and daughter of an oil producer, said the Biden administration’s policy restricts investment in new fields, even if current production is reliable.
“It’s just such a bad time when Europe needs our energy,” she said. “We could provide Europe with energy en masse, but you have to have the infrastructure in place and you have to be able to extract natural gas.”
But our ability to export liquefied natural gas to Europe is limited because our export capacity is already running at capacity.
New Mexico is a major source of natural gas and last year overtook North Dakota as the 2nd largest oil producer in the United States after Texas.
This picture is also more complicated. Biden suspended new oil and gas leases on federal land when he took office, but a judge blocked that decision, and drilling on state lands actually accelerated. And a few months before Biden was sworn in, oil and gas producers were accumulating drilling permits on federal land pending policies that would promote renewable energy.
In Utah, where more than half of the land is federally owned, State Senate President Stuart Adams said on Twitter that the state should be able to share its “sufficient natural gas” with U.S. allies.
“We cannot count on Russia as an energy source if we can produce it ourselves,” he added.
Busewitz reported from New York. Associated Press Writers Morgan Lee in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Colin Long in Washington, DC; Lindsay Whitehurst and Samuel Metz in Salt Lake City; and Andrew Welsh-Huggins of Columbus, Ohio, contributed to this report.