Powering Putin: U.S. imports of Russian oil soar as domestic energy production plummets

Critics blame President Biden's energy policies for indirectly facilitating the invasion of Ukraine by boosting Russia's energy export earnings.

Updated: March 1, 2022 - 2:16pm

Amid declining U.S. energy production, oil imports from Russia last year increased to their highest level in a decade, as the formerly communist country continues to be the world's largest net exporter of oil and gas combined.

Last year, Russia​n oil exports to the U.S.​ reached the highest level in a decade, peaking at over 26 million barrels in May, as Russia surpassed Mexico as the second-highest oil exporter to the U.S. 

The U.S. has increased its imports of crude oil and petroleum products from Russia since 2018, EIA data shows.

U.S. dependence on Russian oil comes amid the decline of the American energy industry, as the Biden administration has canceled construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, banned new leases for oil and gas production on federal land, and planned on restricting methane waste emissions from natural gas drilling on public lands.

Critics blame President Biden's energy policies for indirectly facilitating the invasion of Ukraine by boosting Russia's energy export earnings.

"Biden energy policy is financing the Russian war machine!" Phill Kline, director of the Amistad Project and former Kansas attorney general, tweeted on Friday. "Russian exports in natural gas up $30B FY 2021 over FY 2020 while Energy Secretary Granholm holds up US exports of clean US liquefied natural gas in her fidelity to the AOC Squad."

"Between our push here in the U.S. to basically walk away from our energy independence, and Europe's push in the same way, we basically have funded this war in Ukraine," Job Creators Network President Alfredo Ortiz said in a conference call on Monday. "We've given the war chest to Putin by doing so."

Former Deputy Assistant Secretary at the Treasury Department Christine McDaniel told the John Solomon Reports podcast on Monday that Russia's oil exports are five times its natural gas exports, so sanctions on their energy industry "could hurt a lot."

"[P]eople are probably scrambling to figure out, you know, how long could they go without energy imports from Russia," McDaniel said. "And I imagine, once those numbers and timelines start coming in, then people recalculate, you know, how much pain they're willing to undergo now to put a stop to this."

Russia is the second-largest producer of natural gas and third-largest in oil, although exports dropped significantly in 2020, according to British Petroleum. Natural gas exports decreased by 8.7% while oil exports dropped by 11%.

In 2020, Russia exported nearly five million barrels a day of crude oil and condensate, with 48% going to European countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), 42% to Asia and Oceania, 9% to non-OECD Europe and Eurasia, and 1% to the U.S., according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

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