Sen. Joe Manchin III criticized President Biden’s response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Monday, arguing that the White House was pushing “hypocritical” policies on energy imports.
Mr. Manchin, West Virginia Democrat, said that the administration needs to curtail its reliance on Russian petroleum if it was serious about holding Russian President Vladimir Putin accountable for his belligerence in Ukraine.
“The entire world is watching as Vladimir Putin uses energy as a weapon in an attempt to extort and coerce our European allies,” said Mr. Manchin, who chairs the Senate Energy Committee. “While Americans decry what is happening in Ukraine, the United States continues to allow the import of more than half a million barrels per day of crude oil and other petroleum products from Russia during this time of war.”
Continued reliance on Russian oil, according to Mr. Manchin, poses a “clear and present danger to our nation’s energy security.”
Instead, the senator urged the White House to incentive domestic energy production and use punitive measures, including tariffs and importation bans, against Russian oil.
“To continue to ask other countries to do what we can do for ourselves in a cleaner way is hypocritical,” Mr. Manchin said. “To continue to rely on Russian energy as they attack Ukraine is senseless.”
The comments come as the White House has levied sanctions against Mr. Putin’s regime for its invasion of Ukraine. Mr. Biden’s punitive measures have mainly focused on Russia’s central banking system and its financial elite.
“The unprecedented action we are taking … will significantly limit Russia’s ability to use assets to finance its destabilizing activities, and target the funds Putin and his inner circle depends on to enable his invasion of Ukraine,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said.
While the sanctions are aimed at punishing Mr. Putin and his country’s economy, they specifically exclude Russia’s oil and gas industry.
Administration officials defend the decision, saying they do not want to exacerbate inflation and rising gasoline prices across the U.S.
“I will do everything in my power to limit the pain the American people are feeling at the gas pump,” Mr. Biden said. “This is critical to me.”
But Republicans and military analysts argue the carve-out for Russian energy makes no sense, especially as oil and gas revenue make up nearly 40% of government revenues in Mr. Putin’s government.
“The administration is intentionally leaving the biggest industry in Russia’s economy virtually untouched,” said Sen. Pat Toomey, Pennsylvania Republican. “The sanctions imposed on Russian banks, while welcome, may not isolate the Russian financial system from international activity. That’s why the U.S. should impose crippling sanctions on Russia’s oil and gas sector.”
Even moderate Democrats agree.
Mr. Manchin argues that targeting Russian oil and natural gas while boosting domestic energy production will punish Mr. Putin and aid the U.S. and its allies.
“The United States can and must ramp up domestic energy production and increase access to our abundant resources and technologies to both protect our energy independence and support our allies around the globe,” he said. “If there was ever a time to be energy independent, it is now.”