President Biden bans Russian oil imports, but he can’t get Saudi Arabia on the line

Ukraine has faced two full weeks of the Russian invasion. It’s become one of the fastest-moving humanitarian disasters in history, with more than 1.8 million Ukrainians fleeing their country, mostly women and children. International media outlets – like the NY Times – are pulling their people out of Russia. Western corporations have ceased operations in Russia. The Russian economy is being crushed by the wave of sanctions and banking restrictions. The oligarchs are on the run. People keep saying that Russia’s invasion was half-assed and it’s going poorly, but thousands of people are still dying and war crimes are being committed daily. American intelligence also says that Putin is unlikely to be deterred, and that everyone should be prepared for a lengthy conflict.

President Biden has been backing NATO and the EU’s plays for the most part. While his first instinct was to sanction the hell out of Russia, the White House was reportedly surprised by the speed with which the EU and our NATO allies have moved. So Biden decided to do something big: he’s banning Russian oil in America.

Reportedly, America doesn’t even import that much Russian oil, but symbolism matters. And it could be an even bigger deal in the days, weeks and months to come if Saudi Arabia and OPEC nations don’t ramp up production. Speaking of:

The de-facto leaders of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have declined to arrange calls with US president Joe Biden in recent weeks as the US and its allies have sought to contain a surge in energy prices caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. According to the Wall Street Journal, citing Middle East and US officials, both Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the UAE’s Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan have been unavailable to Biden after US requests were made for discussions.

“There was some expectation of a phone call, but it didn’t happen,“ a US official said of a plan for Saudi Prince Mohammed and Biden to speak. “It was part of turning on the spigot [of Saudi oil].”

Last week, OPEC+, which includes Russia, declined to increase oil production despite western entreaties. But reports of frigid communications with Saudi Arabia come as the Biden administration seeks to increase oil supply after formally banning Russian oil imports on Tuesday, pushing oil prices to $130 a barrel, the highest level in 14 years.

However, the US has for the first time in years opened up diplomatic channels with Venezuela, a Russian ally and which has the world’s largest oil reserves. Venezuela has now released at least two Americans from jail in an apparent goodwill gesture toward the Biden administration in a possible prelude to increasing production to ease the price surge.

Relations between the US and Saudi Arabia have chilled during the Biden administration over American policy in the Gulf region. Earlier this week, White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said there were no plans for the Biden and Prince Mohammed to talk soon, and no plans for the president to travel to Riyadh.

[From The Guardian]

Republican and Democratic presidents have enjoyed cozy relations with the House of Saud for decades, so this frostiness is pretty new. Lord knows what Jared Kushner has been telling his friends in the kingdom, and who knows what kind of game is being played here, but it isn’t just about Russia. I like the fact that Biden is basically telegraphing a “f–k ‘em” attitude though. Bunch of hooligans and their oil malarkey.

Photos courtesy of Backgrid.

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15 Responses to “President Biden bans Russian oil imports, but he can’t get Saudi Arabia on the line”

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  1. Eurydice says:

    Saudi is angry because the Biden administration announced last month that the US would be cutting its support to the Saudi side of the Yemen civil war. This support started under the Obama administration.

    • Honey says:

      Agree — that’s my understanding, too. Putin is an evil thug, but buying oil from the Saudis is ethically problematic, too, as they have decimating Yemen and its people for a number of years (and gets little media attention). Another big oil producer, Venezuela, is also very problematic.

      • Eurydice says:

        Well, there’s also that it’s a proxy war between Saudi and Iran, and now we want to negotiate with Iran again…

  2. Colby says:

    While I am very liberal, I do support oil/coal production in the US and think we need to do more, for now. It should be a national security initiative to be energy independent so we aren’t dependent on OPEC or anyone else for such critical functions.

    We also need to be dumping money and incentives for private business into sustainable energy for the future.

    • OG Bella says:

      Yes, but also there are American oil companies sitting on supply to make more money (from what I’ve read over the past few weeks. not an expert here.)

      Somehow the “Me Decade” (1970s) have produced a generation of Me, Me, Mine, eff you, Me, Me, Meeee.

      We need a total culture shift. My kids’ generation have their job cut out for them.

    • Tiffany :) says:

      Some people think the US stopped producing oil, and it’s so untrue! We produced more this year than last year, and next year is predicted to break records.

      The thing is that oil market is run by capitalism. During the pandemic, oil was so cheap that it didn’t make sense for oil companies to start drilling in new places. The lack of profit didn’t justify the expense. They have 9,000 leases they could’ve started drilling on a long time ago, but oil companies chose not to.

      There’s this myth that Democrats hold back oil production in the US. It’s just not true. They just don’t want drilling in sacred places, like Alaskan Wildlife Refuge.

      • YaGotMe says:

        That 9000 number is misleading — that does not mean there are 9000 parcels of land accessible and with viable zones for production . It means there are 9000 maybes that would require time and resources to explore — most “leases” aren’t viable for production. That terminology was used for a reason.

        ETA: It isn’t just the Alaskan wilderness , no one wants a drilling rig in their skyline. The NIMBY crowd.

      • Tiffany:) says:

        Yes, there are 9000 maybes that have been around for a long time that the oil industry hasn’t done their work on. That’s not a policy problem, that is part of oil being a commodity that is impacted by capitalism. It takes investment to get the product, but again, that is not a policy problem. That’s a business decision. COGS.

    • Bikny says:

      I completely agree with you. Saudi Arabia and Russia are pushing the US as well as other countries to find ways to produce their own energy. It’s time we end our reliance on them!

    • pottymouth pup says:

      there are 9,000 drilling permits that the US oil industry has and is not using, the industry’s complaints that Biden isn’t permitting them to lease more federal lands on which to get new permits & drill is utter horseshoe. They don’t want to increase production because now that people are driving more, they’re seeing record profits because they’re raising the prices by keeping supply low while demand is high and then raising them more because of the embargo on Russian oil which is < 4% of what we use here. Also of note, Shell (and probably others) recently purchased gobs of Russian at a deep discount while the FOP & industry complain about high prices & undermining programs to develop better renewables

      • Tiffany:) says:

        Pottymouth, you are absolutely correct! Pasting again to amplify your thoughts.

        ***” They don’t want to increase production because now that people are driving more, they’re seeing record profits because they’re raising the prices by keeping supply low while demand is high”***

      • Noo says:

        @pottymouth and @tiffany your info is not correct. Canada and U.S. energy industry are free market systems, it’s not OPEC where decisions are being made in dark rooms about when to turn up and down the taps.

        If there is money to be made then shareholders expect the companies to invest money to try to increase production as these plays are all on land where energy companies have sunk costs to have the opportunity to access the resources. The longer that money has been spent without any economic return, the worse the metrics that shareholders look at (acknowledging there are private companies, not just publicly traded ones, and a few nationally owned oil cos/NOCs in the mix too). But overall behaviour is shareholder driven and shareholders expect economic returns and the boom and bust cycles had become shorter with all the U.S. tight oil and the market can go to oversupply quickly. Wait around on the sidelines and you could miss the high prices completely.

  3. Stacy says:

    It will be interesting to see what happens with the Saudis.
    From a royal angle…William seems to have been cozying with the Saudis recently. Imagine what a mess that will for them if the Saudis start losing more support. For now they seem to have gotten away with not much scrutiny despite lots of human rights violations.
    It might be a Russia situation all over again for the RF with all their shady connections. Hmmm hmmm hmm

  4. Ainsley7 says:

    So, this ban was entirely symbolic. BP, Exxon and Shell had already pulled out of Russia. Chevron was never in Russia. So, that leaves only Lukoil as a supplier of Russian oil to the US. It also puts pressure on Europe in a way that is a little unfair. They can only switch to other sources so quickly. If Russia decides to turn off the tap than it could lead to serious problems. I also don’t like when people over simplify and say that they can just get their gas from us. That would just lead to more fracking and pollution for us. It’s a problem in my area. So, I guess I’m just sensitive to it. There just isn’t a quick and easy answer. We need to be holding the right wing (because it’s always them in every country) accountable for consistently blocking measures to switch to environmentally healthy energy options. I remember back when G.W was President and he wanted to put an extra tax on hybrid cars because they didn’t use enough gas!! This is their fault and I don’t want to hear one word from any of them about gas prices. Rant over…

    • Eurydice says:

      Putin has been the one to put pressure on Europe. For decades, the EU has been putting security issues on the back burner.