Barrasso: Putin’s Actions Are Proof Of The Need For Energy Independence

Sen. John Barrasso on Wednesday said President Putin is using energy as a weapon to get his way and European leaders have now realized they've become too dependent on Russian oil.

Leo Wolfson

May 18, 20224 min read

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(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

A recent trip to Ukraine has reinforced U.S. Sen. John Barrasso’s opinion that the United States needs a secure source of energy, he said Wednesday.

Barrasso, speaking during a virtual roundtable with U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-North Dakota, said his visit with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has convinced him that a stable domestic energy source goes hand-in-hand with national security.

Barrasso said Russian President Vladimir Putin, instigator in the current war with Ukraine, is using energy as a weapon to get his way.

“Putin, for years, financed the environmental movement of Europe because he didn’t want fracking going on,” Barrasso said. “It had nothing to do with geology, he knew (European countries) would become more energy dependent on him. He’s very shrewd when it comes to energy.”

Barrasso said European leaders have realized they became too dependent on Russian oil and added he found it telling that Sweden, a country long known for its neutrality, is now making plans to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. 

Barrasso and Hoeven are blaming President Joe Biden for damaging America’s energy security by cutting down on federal oil and gas leases and enacting other regulatory measures viewed as harmful to the fossil fuel industry.

Their comments came on the heels of testimony offered to the U.S. Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources by Jason Kennedy, the premier of Alberta, that if the Keystone XL Pipeline had not been canceled, Canada could have delivered 800,000 barrels of oil a day to replace losses caused by sanctions on Russian oil deliveries.

The U.S. imported about 209,000 barrels of crude oil each day from Russia in 2021, according to the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers trade association. 

Barrasso said he found it ironic that Biden supported the Nord Stream 2 project to funnel natural gas directly from Russia to Western Europe but denied Keystone XL.

During a U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee meeting on Tuesday, Jason Kenney, the premier of Alberta, told U.S. legislators that if Biden had not canceled the Keystone XL Pipeline project, Canada could have replaced Russian oil with 800,000 barrels of oil a day. The U.S. imported about 209,000 barrels of crude oil each day from Russia in 2021, according to the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers trade association. 

Barrasso pointed to rising gasoline prices as evidence of what can happen without a stable supply of oil.

The national average for gas hit $4.56 on Wednesday, according to AAA, an all-time record. California’s statewide average for a gallon of gas has surged to $6, while Wyoming’s average price was $4.25.  

The last day former President Donald Trump was in office the average national gas price was $2.39. 

Barrasso finds Biden’s decision to pull oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to be “a gimmick” and a move that will further threaten America’s energy security. 

Barrasso also noted that on the day Biden gave a speech blaming the gasoline price hike on Putin, his administration canceled three major federal oil leases in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico. 

“Energy dominance — we were there,” Barrasso said. “Now we have dependence. We’re more beholden to climate extremists than we are to the people of this country.”

An April ABC poll showed many Americans believe either oil companies or  Putin were responsible for the skyrocketing gas prices. On Feb. 22, two days before Russia invaded Ukraine, the U.S. average gas price was $3.52.

In March, U.S. officials traveled to Venezuela to discuss lifting sanctions so that country can deliver more crude oil to the market, a move Chevron has lobbied for.

Barrasso and Hoeven said by seeking out energy alternatives with Venezuela, the U.S. is hurting its own environmental interests, as oil from this country burns much cleaner than oil from South America.

Barrasso also criticized the people Biden has chosen to head government agencies, pointing as an example to the Democrat-majority leadership of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. 

This agency is charged with approving large energy projects, such as interstate natural gas pipelines and hydroelectric dams and overseeing the bulk power system. Barrasso and Hoeven did mention Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), an energy-friendly lawmaker, as an ally.

On other issues stemming from his trip to Ukraine, Barrasso said he has been impressed with the courage shown by the Ukrainian people.

“Putin overestimated everything,” Barrasso said. “He overestimated his own power; he underestimated the willpower of the people of Ukraine. There has been devastation across Ukraine, but they still have the willpower and desire to unite.”

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter