Colorado’s senators join bipartisan effort to ban Russian oil imports

Caitlyn Kim/CPR News
Colorado Sen. John Hickenlooper speaks at a press conference about the introduction of a bill to ban Russian energy imports.

Colorado Senators John Hickenlooper and Michael Bennet have joined a bipartisan group of Senators and Representatives on a bill that would ban Russian oil and natural gas imports to the United States.

At a press conference announcing the bill Thursday, Hickenlooper noted that last year, the U.S. imported about 700,000 barrels of Russian oil and petroleum products a day. At today’s prices, that’s worth about $75 million, which he said is going to fund Russia’s “war machine.”

“I think if more people figure out that they can follow the American lead in banning the import of Russian oil in response to [Russian President] Putin’s heinous actions, it will make a significant difference and will accelerate the end of this tragedy.”

Bennet announced his support for the bill Friday.

“It’s time to liberate America from Russian oil imports that enable Putin’s lawless war against Ukraine,” he said in a statement. “We need to secure our energy independence and supercharge our transition to clean energy.”

The bill is led by Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia. He described it as a  straightforward ban on Russian petroleum, petroleum products, crude oil, natural gas and coal — basically all fossil fuel-related products — coming into the United States. At the bill unveiling, Manchin noted that the bill had nine Republican and nine Democratic original sponsors, with the group reaching out to more lawmakers. The bipartisan leaders of the House Problem Solvers caucus are also on board.

“Make no mistake,” Manchin said, “energy is being used as a weapon of war for Putin.” 

He stressed he believes the U.S. has the ability to backfill the lost supply and help allies in the energy sector.

Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski added, “No more Russian energy should come in [to] the United States for the duration of this bloody, horrifying and unprovided war against Ukraine. This measure is in direct response to what Russia is doing.”

The idea got a major boost from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who said Thursday morning that she supports the idea. 

The Biden administration is facing increasing calls to stop Russian oil imports as Russia enters the second week of its invasion of Ukraine. And in the lead up to his State of the Union address, numerous Republicans — including Colorado Reps. Ken Buck, Lauren Bobert and Doug Lamborn — called on Biden to increase U.S. fossil fuel production.

But when it comes to the idea of an import ban, White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said the administration is not currently on board. Any ban “would raise prices at the gas pump for the American people,” she said, “because it would reduce the supply available. And it’s as simple as less supply raises prices. and that is certainly a big factor for the president at this moment.”

The Biden administration has levied sanctions on key Russian sectors, like banking, and select individuals, such as President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, but has not targeted Russia’s oil or natural gas sector.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to include Bennet's announcement of support for the bill.

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