Roth issues statement following ban on oil from Russia

Mayor Mitch Roth issued a statement this morning urging Hawaii Island residents to be mindful of fuel and energy consumption following President Biden’s decision to ban oil imports from Russia due to the Ukrainian invasion.

“We are urging those in our community to be mindful of their fuel and energy consumption, as Russian oil imports are now banned due to rising tensions in Europe,” Roth said in the statement. “Although we stand in solidarity with Ukraine and the decision of the United States government to place strict sanctions on Russia in defense of democracy, we must also remember that we are an isolated island chain that the decision will heavily impact. After speaking with the governor and other team members, we have been informed that the sanctions shouldn’t have an immediate drastic impact on our cost of living; however, we are beginning to feel it.


“As a community working on emerging from this pandemic, every cent matters, and we are committed to doing all we can to keep costs of fuel and energy bearable for our island residents,” Roth continued. “That said, we will need your help to ensure that we are using as little fuel as possible to help keep things like energy, food, and other associated costs down to a minimum.

“By being mindful, we can stretch our on-island supply as the global market adjusts to the economic impacts the sanctions are sure to cause. We are confident that solutions will be found to address this issue and appreciate the cooperation and commitment from the community in the meantime. Every effort, big or small, is valued and necessary to our economic vitality moving forward.”

Biden’s oil ban, responding to the pleas of Ukraine’s embattled leader, thrust the U.S. out front as Western nations seek to halt Vladimir Putin’s invasion.

Biden acknowledged Americans will feel the pain at the gas pump, declaring, “Defending freedom is going to cost.”

The imports have been a glaring omission in the massive sanctions put in place on Russia over the invasion. Energy exports have kept a steady stream of cash flowing to Russia despite otherwise severe restrictions on its financial sector.

“We will not be part of subsidizing Putin’s war,” Biden said, calling the new action a “powerful blow” against Russia’s ability to fund the ongoing offensive.

Biden said the U.S. was acting in close consultation with European allies, who are more dependent on Russian energy supplies and who he acknowledged may not be able to join in immediately. The announcement marked the latest Biden attempt at cutting off Russia from much of the global economy and ensuring that the Ukraine invasion is a strategic loss for Putin, even if he manages to seize territory.

“Ukraine will never be a victory for Putin,” Biden said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in a tweet praised Biden’s action: “Thankful for US and @POTUS personal leadership in striking in the heart of Putin’s war machine and banning oil, gas and coal from US market. Encourage other countries and leaders to follow.”

The European Union this week will commit to phasing out its reliance on Russia for energy needs as soon as possible, but filling the void without crippling EU economies will likely take some time. The U.K., which is no longer part of the EU, announced Tuesday that oil and oil products from Russia will be phased out by the end of the year.

Unlike the U.S., which is a major oil and gas producer, Europe relies on imports for 90% of its gas and 97% of its oil products. Russia supplies 40% of Europe’s gas and a quarter of its oil. The U.S. does not import Russian natural gas.

The issue of oil sanctions has created a conflict for the president between political interests at home and efforts to impose costs on Russia. Though Russian oil makes up only a small part of U.S. imports, Biden has said he was reluctant to ban it, cutting into supplies here and pushing gasoline prices higher.

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