By Soorin Kim
The tragedy in Ukraine has been dominating the U.S. news cycle for the past few weeks. As the terror rages on against innocent civilians, Americans have come together to express their solidarity through vigils, marches and other performative means of showing support. However, on a larger, governmental level, many have wondered exactly what actions the Biden administration will take to combat this humanitarian crisis.
The answer came on March 8 when Biden officially banned the importation of Russian crude oil and natural gas. This sanction, among the multiple other Russian sanctions imposed by sympathetic countries, will hopefully be a huge financial blow to Putin’s war chest: a limitation on exports will force the country to focus on a domestic crisis rather than on the terror pressed against Ukrainians.
Some have celebrated the measure as the next rational step in peacefully fighting Russia’s invasion of the Ukrainian border. After all, it is a common tactic seen time and time again in America’s involvement with foreign wars. Besides, the outpouring of love and support shown by the public for the suffering nation seems to suggest that there would be general approval of this executive order.
This has not necessarily been the case so far.
Many Americans, Republicans especially, have reacted strongly against this gas ban. Even before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, American gas prices have been steadily rising. If we were to rely on other countries for our gas, we would have to pay astronomical prices at the pump.
It is easy to have a knee jerk negative response to the news that soon you will have to pay much more to get around: up to $2,000 more, to be exact.
We are slowly emerging out from under a restrictive pandemic, meaning many people are ready to get out and go, even to their place of work, which could prove economically devastating for people who might not be able to afford this price hike.
However, there are several factors at play here that may lessen the overall impact that a Russian gas ban will have on the average citizen. For one, the United States does not rely on Russia for gas as heavily as other countries. Yes prices will rise, but not to the extent that they would if we were trying to hurt Canada with an economic sanction.
Biden also hopes that these gas bans will help Americans think about making the switch to clean energy on a united, patriotic front. Perhaps this sanction will be a wake-up call for American citizens who supposed we could rely on foreign countries for energy sources forever. Natural resources will one day dry up, and our planet’s environment will not be able to support us. Biden is urging Americans to look at rising gas prices as a cue to invest in clean energy and the climate.
Maybe clean energy is too much of a stretch; after all, years of environmentalists begging society to turn their roofs into solar panels and their cars into green machines to save the planet have not pushed the country much further into adopting environmentally-friendly habits.
It’s hard to believe that Americans will abandon their gas guzzlers out of solidarity with Ukrainians. However, the incentive to give up Russian oil might come from more selfish reasons.
We can’t afford to be so dependent on the politics of other countries for something that has become as essential to us as oil. By investing more in domestic oil reserves, America could work towards a stronger, more self-sufficient economy that takes full advantage of the oil we have left within U.S borders.
Biden’s decision to ban Russian energy is a positive one, despite the toll it may take on American citizens.
The country has heard a milieu of complaints about the incredibly high rate of inflation since the beginning of 2022, and this sanction is just one more burden to bear. But this choice is quite uncharacteristic of governments facing foreign humanitarian crises, and I applaud it. Given the context of America’s economic struggles, Biden must be willing to face a rating drop from angry Republicans, but I believe that this strike to Russia’s wobbling economy might hinder the country’s efforts.
Americans must be willing to face the real consequences of supporting Ukrainians through this attack — it’s not enough to merely voice your opinion.
Just like in the past, Americans need to band together and face financial strife to support foreign countries. After all, in World War II, we did not plant liberty gardens and forgo sugar for our own sake. We did it to help others. In this war where one side is completely disadvantaged and suffering tremendous, unjust losses, we need to do the same.