Was Biden right to ban Russian oil?
This is an edition of Up for Debate, a newsletter from Conor Friedersdorf. On Wednesday, it summarizes timely conversations and solicits readers’ responses to a thought-provoking question. Every Friday, he posts a few thoughtful responses.
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Earlier this week, I asked readers if Joe Biden made the right decision when he banned energy imports from Russia, acknowledging that it would cause gasoline prices to rise even higher than ‘previously.
Jack supports the movement despite the burden on American consumers like him:
Assuming Biden’s decision not to fire a live bullet in a war is wise and final, then he’s bound to drive the economic dagger in the most damaging way possible. From now on, every move will be weighed against the imperative to raise costs for Putin. Cutting oil sales hurts a lot. It hurts me, but it hurts Putin even more. No fuss. Turn the knife.
Nancy argues that solidarity with Ukraine compels a ban on Russian oil:
To ask whether Joe Biden made the right decision is essentially to ask whether we think paying more for gas is an acceptable cost to prevent civilians from being killed. If we, as citizens of the world, do not defend and support the people who are being ravaged, the terror will never end.
We have to adopt a wartime mentality. We are fighting against a cruel and despotic interventionist and should not fill his coffers by importing his nation’s oil. We must show the same kind of determination and determination as the Ukrainians and do our part to push back against Putin’s efforts to impose his will on a sovereign nation.
But Scott is against the Russian oil ban and critical of the broader US approach to the crisis, echoing GOP allegations that US involvement in the country is driven by greed:
Biden made the wrong call. China and India will probably consume most of the oil that the US and EU have sanctioned and now we’re going hat in hand to Libya, Iran and Venezuela begging for oil, while Jen Psaki enlightens the country on why we can’t drill nationally. This will cause great pain to Americans who are already suffering from historically high prices due to our inflationary policies during the pandemic for very little benefit to Ukrainians. If we had really wanted to avoid war there, we would have withdrawn the unnecessarily provocative invitation to NATO. But I suppose that would have limited the ability of the elite to participate in bribery and corruption there. Instead, we presented the non-binding offer and now the Ukrainians are suffering.
Errol is also opposed to the ban:
If we stop buying from Russia, we are only supporting other authoritarian regimes with our money. Stephen Colbert said “A good conscience is worth a dollar or two.” Well, how clear your conscience is knowing that instead of Putin getting your money, it’s Saudi Arabia, or Venezuela, or Iraq, or Iran. How good can we feel replacing one villain with another? It just doesn’t make sense on any level other than not looking bad in the moment. It’s a fatalistic view to say there’s no way to buy dead dinosaurs in good conscience, but it’s the truth. It’s a pretty big downer. You shouldn’t be buying gasoline at all if you’re worried about who you’re supporting, and that’s outside of the environmental impact.
“Well, we have to do something.”
Yes. Make electric cars cheaper and cooler. And have fewer clean energy regulations. We are in a crisis which concerns the future of the peoples of this planet and the financing of anti-democratic countries. We need to move to nuclear, solar and hydropower as quickly as possible, which means making it faster and cheaper than current regulations allow.
Dean is skeptical of sanctions more generally in response to this conflict:
For what purpose are we sanctioning Russia?
Zelensky has denounced Western sanctions as “not enough”, and he is right. If sanctions are thought to make the war in Ukraine too costly for Russia to wage (whether due to insolvency or more indirect costs), I am skeptical that sanctions will have that effect at all. short term. In the short term, the sanctions could even create a perverse incentive for Russia to step up its war efforts in hopes of winning a military victory before the coffers dry up and the sanctions achieve their goal.
Why, then, are we sanctioning Russia? I see nothing more than posturing on the part of the West. While Ukraine suffers from the continuation of the war, the West has ensured that it has done something significant. He does not have. Sanctions won’t force Russia to negotiate a peace anytime soon, but Ukraine, if it wants to avoid ruin, needs peace now. If the West really cared about Ukraine, it would be working tirelessly for a peaceful resolution to the war now, rather than working tirelessly to develop an increasingly elaborate sanctions plan that will do little material good. short term.
And Eric argues that even before the recent gas price spikes and accompanying pump sticker shock, we were paying a high price for this commodity – we just didn’t fully realize it:
The price of oil was already high considering the damage and suffering inflicted by carbon-fueled climate change. And Vladimir Putin’s cruelty machine isn’t the only oil-funded repression. The top 10 oil-producing countries account for 72% of world production. Of those 10, Freedom House rates just three as free, with an abysmal average score of 39 out of 100 for the group as a whole. Because the world largely refuses to pay for the negative externalities of pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the price of oil is artificially cheap. Before the sanctions, oil was already expensive in the world.