WASHINGTON -- President Joe Biden did not race to ban Russian Oil. An unusual alliance of Republicans, climate-conscious liberals pushed him into it.
Supporters of the embargo cite as their number one priority the defense of innocent Ukrainians. But that's just one aspect.
Republicans, once divided by the Russian invasion in Ukraine, have come together to demand an oil ban. This is seen as a hawkish reaction to Vladimir Putin's autocratic Russian President. It will undoubtedly lead to higher gas prices which will give them more political ammunition.
Liberals believe that banning Russian oil, or any oil, is a step towards reducing global dependence and the power of petrostate leaders. Higher gas prices are an incentive to consumers to purchase electric vehicles.
Marcella Mulholland (political director, Data for Progress), stated that "This is an important moment for the climate movement." "Russia's invasion in Ukraine has served as a stark reminder about the need to remove the global economy oil and gas-controlled by dictators such as Putin.
These two complementary goals brought together a bizarre-beddedfellows coalition legislative representatives from both the political right as well as the left that began last week to draft legislation to ban Russian oil imports. They also have common interests in opposing more oil imports from Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Venezuela.
Biden was faced with a difficult choice: lead or get rolled over by Congress.
Biden called it "Putin’s price spike" while pleading for oil companies to not exploit scarcity for excessive profit. However, he acknowledged that the new sanctions would increase gas prices.
He said that "with this action, it will go up further", and added that he would "do everything possible" to reduce the pain at the pump. This includes increasing American oil production and urging allies of the United States to reduce their dependence upon Russian oil.
A senior administration official said that the ban applies to new Russian oil and liquefied petroleum gas purchases. It also prohibits U.S. energy companies from investing in Russian energy.
The White House refused to confirm that Biden would sign an embargo legislation from Congress, much less impose his own unilateral ban. This was despite being open for several days. Biden has shown that he is not afraid to put pressure on Putin. Rounds of sanctions have demonstrated his willingness to do so. His hesitation showed a deep ambivalence over a move that could harm consumers and cost his party politically.
David Kieve, a former climate advisor to Biden, stated that the White House did not take any action they knew would increase oil prices. It was the right thing to do, given how horrendous Putin's actions in Ukraine.
It is difficult to find a pollster that believes rising gas prices are a good thing for the incumbent president or members of his party in difficult political races. Democrats hope or believe that voters will allow them to fight against Putin.
"People know this is the price we have to pay in order to protect Ukraine and end this conflict," stated Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.
Some Republicans cannot hide their delight at the rising oil prices.
Donald Trump, the former President, has done a clumsy pirouette over Russia in the recent weeks. He released a statement focusing on pain at gas pumps before Biden's announcement. "BREAKING NEWS! HIGHEST GAS PRICES HISTORY!" DID YOU MISS ME?
Yet, Biden's action was applauded by many Republicans, even though they criticised him for taking actions that he didn't take.
"Good first step Mr. president, let's unleash American Energy rather than turning to [Venezuelan] dictator Nicolas Maduro and the Mullahs of Iran," ex-Vice President Mike Pence tweeted using an American flag emoticon
It's clear that Republicans and climate Democrats are still divided on where Americans should get their energy. They are, however, united on where energy should not come from, at least temporarily. So united that Biden couldn't help but join them.