by Raymond S. Heyman

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has brought to the forefront the key role that energy policy plays in international relations.  Many countries sympathetic to Ukraine, but not wanting to escalate the conflict by sending troops, have discussed or actually imposed economic sanctions on Russia.  One obvious target area for sanctions is Russian energy imports and exports.  But this area has been relatively untouched.  Why?  A main reason is because Russia produces about 10 million barrels of oil a day, one quarter of which is exported to Europe.  Russia also supplies Europe with approximately 40% of its natural gas imports.  The United States, too, is a recipient of Russian energy production.  According to the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) trade association, in 2021 the United States imported an average of 209,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil and 500,000 bpd of other petroleum products from Russia.  Countries dependent in part or in whole upon Russian oil and gas do not want to start an exchange of punitive actions with Russia that, in the long run, could negatively impact their access to critical energy related commodities and products.  U.S. Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that sanctions against Russia would raise prices at the gas pump for Americans.  Proponents of non-fossil fuel energy sources in the United States are pointing to this situation as yet another reason for self-sustainability and less dependence upon imported oil and gas.  Jean-Pierre seems to agree from the political perspective, “We and our allies and partners have a strong collective interest to degrade Russia’s status as a leading energy supplier over time.”  And while it is too early to conclude whether energy sanctions against Russia would be employed in the short-term, the reality is that Russia’s role as a crucial energy provider on the world stage has protected it, to date, from facing energy sanctions.  Whether the U.S. and its partners see this situation as a catalyst for energy independence is yet to be seen.