Despite Low Imports, Russian Oil Ban Hits Hard

Number of the Day: The most relevant or interesting figure in personal finance

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That’s how little crude oil the U.S. actually imports from Russia, underscoring how much of the recent spike in gasoline prices is due to global market forces—not a lack of supply. 

Out of 2.2 billion barrels of crude oil imported to the U.S. in 2021, just 72 million came from Russia, according to data from the Energy Information Administration. And the U.S.—the world’s largest producer of crude oil—drills far more at home than it imports. In other words, Russian oil isn’t all that important to us, at least by the numbers alone. So why did prices for crude oil spike, and the gas that’s made from it surge, to record levels this week when President Joe Biden banned importing Russian energy products to punish Russia for its invasion of Ukraine?

The short answer is, because Russia is a bigger player on the global market than it is in the U.S. Russia supplies 11% of the world’s total petroleum products, the EIA says, making it the world’s third-largest producer. The U.S. move to ban Russian oil was a signal for other countries to follow suit—Britain has already pledged a similar sanction—and concern about what might follow made waves in the global marketplace that sets prices for oil and gasoline, economists said.

"While only a small percentage of global demand for Russian crude will have been removed with the ban, the market is now beginning to price in risk that more or all of Russian output may be disrupted,” said Jesse Wheeler, Morning Consult economic analyst, in an email. “Many commodities buyers are being very cautious about purchases from Russia. This all places a lot of uncertainty on Russian energy supplies to the market, and markets do not like uncertainty."

That oil prices are so tied to perception cuts both ways: Prices retreated Wednesday as traders reassessed how much impact the ban would actually have, Wheeler said. Crude oil futures fell about 11% to $110 a barrel Wednesday, well short of the $130 peak they hit at one point on Monday.

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  1. Energy Information Agency. “US Crude Oil Imports.”

  2. AFPM. “What drives prices at the pump | American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers.”

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