The Biden administration has not ruled out the possibility of placing sanctions on countries that purchase Russian oil amid the war in Ukraine, but was being careful about impacts on oil markets, U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said Thursday.
The United States, along with Britain and Canada have placed bans on purchases of Russian oil after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. But Washington has not placed so-called secondary sanctions on countries that buy Russian oil, the type of measures it has slapped on countries that buy oil from Iran.
“The administration is going to be making decisions in that vein… I’m not telegraphing, that’s their call,” Granholm told reporters in Washington. The Treasury Department and State Department typically craft sanctions, but the energy secretary can have input in regards to their effect on global oil prices.
Countries such as India and China continue to buy oil from Russia, which ultimately helps fund the war effort.
India, the world’s No. 3 oil importer, boosted Russian oil imports in April to about 277,000 barrels per day, up from 66,000 bpd in March as refiners snap up cheaper oil shunned by many Western countries and companies. China is also picking up heavily discounted Russian barrels.
When asked whether the administration should impose secondary sanctions Granholm said: “I know that that’s certainly not off the table.”
But such measures could boost global prices for oil at a time when the administration is sensitive about high gasoline prices that recently hit a fresh record despite Washington’s move to release record amounts of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The high prices are worrying Biden’s fellow Democrats ahead of congressional elections in November.
Granholm said the first set of Western sanctions on Russia has pulled about 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd) off global markets and EU plans to phase out Russian oil and refined products could remove another 1.5 million bpd by the end of the year.
“That will obviously create additional price pressures … we don’t want our citizens to be hurting,” from high fuel bills, Granholm said.