What Russian Oil Really Means for Global Energy

The Effects of a Russian Oil Embargo

After more than two weeks, Russian troops continue their assault on Kyiv and the Ukrainian people. And, international leaders and organizations continue to lay sanctions against them. Some have gone as far as banning Russian ships from their ports and ostracizing them from the global community. However, many people fear this will send the economy into a tailspin. No one can be certain what lies ahead or how the markets will react to unforeseen political events. But, here are the facts on Russian oil and energy production, and what it really means for the entire sector.

Fear of War and Market Turmoil

A trip to the local gas station will paint a pretty clear picture of how Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is affecting global markets. Crude oil prices are the highest they’ve been since 2008. On March 7, they reached almost $140 per barrel before closing at $123.70. As of today, it’s down slightly. But, the national average price for gas is $4.33 a gallon, and well above $5 in some areas of the country. And with no end in sight, the hike in energy prices will go even higher as the conflict continues.

Many conspiracy theorists say it’s just a ploy by the oil companies to drive up profits or to push the liberal agenda on climate change. While both may hold some truth, energy costs already were already elevated from Covid-19 shutdowns and disruptions in the supply chain. However, further sanctions and an embargo on Russian oil and gas imports could cause fuel prices to spike even higher. NATO has already revoked its trading status and international ports are refusing Russian ships entry. But, its members hope to avoid further escalation through an economic stranglehold.

However, if Putin is backed into a corner, he may cut the supply lines completely. This move would cause prices to skyrocket. A Russian economic blackout could wreak havoc on the global community, driving up the price of fuel, food, and other commodities. It also forces NATO members to reconsider their foreign policy with other oil-producing nations and lift sanctions to meet global energy demands.

European Dependence on Russian Oil

In recent years, many European countries have enacted plans to decrease dependence on Russian fossil fuels. But, many are still reliant on Russia for coal, oil, and natural gas. Once a major supplier, Europe now receives 41% of its natural gas from Russia. Due to their dependency, German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, confirmed that Europe had deliberately exempted Russian fuel from sanctions until now.

Simply stated, there isn’t enough supply to fill the void left by cutting off trade with Russia. As Scholz said, there isn’t “any other way” to secure the country’s energy needs right now. If Germany enacts a trade embargo, he assured the “lights will go out.”

Boycotting Russian oil and gas could be a crushing economic both for both Russia and Europe. While the EU is transitioning to more renewable energy sources like wind, solar, and hydro, it will take time. Renewables only account for less than a fifth of Europe’s energy demands. The EU unveiled its plan for complete energy independence, but it is still a long way from its goal.

Current U.S. Energy Production

The other factor to consider is what’s going on across the Atlantic. The U.S. is one of the world’s leading oil producers. But, it’s also the largest consumer. What’s more, is that our energy consumption outpaces domestic production. While the U.S. does import a significant amount of fossil fuels from other countries, only 3% comes from Russia.

To keep up with current demands, the U.S. either needs to produce more, turn to alternative energy resources, or rely more heavily on other oil-rich countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Venezuela. However, each of these options causes issues:

  1.  While President Biden’s climate policies have limited oil production, so have the big energy companies’ reluctance to produce more because they are seeing record-breaking profits.
  2. Many politicians have resisted legislation to explore and utilize alternative energy options.
  3. Finding more trading partners means lifting sanctions against Venezuela and Iran, overlooking important foreign policy issues including human rights violations and nuclear deals. There are also strained relations with Saudi Arabia right now over the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

While none of these are ideal, it will likely require a combination of all three solutions to help curb rising energy costs.

Global Demands for Energy

The world is more interconnected today than at any other time in human history. Therefore, the invasion of Ukraine has had rippling effects across the global economy and within the energy sector.

Although NATO and the western world hope it will stop Russian aggression, there is no doubt that an economic blackout will exacerbate supply shortages. Revenue from crude oil, natural gas, and petroleum products accounts for half of Russia’s federal budget. Blocking trade would cripple their economy, but also global supply.

The only way to completely eliminate foreign reliance is for each country to strive for energy independence. This is achieved when countries produce enough fuel to meet their own needs. Not only does it create a more sustainable economy, but also eliminates trade considerations with less-than-desirable partners during times of political upheaval. Having secure energy sources allows nations greater autonomy and a stronger bargaining position in global markets.

If we have learned nothing else over the last two years, it’s that crisis accelerates change. The pandemic unveiled deep flaws in our healthcare and economic systems. Now, we are seeing how tenuous our global supply chains are.

Although it will further delay any hopes for some return to normalcy, Russia’s military aggression has forced every government to assess its energy demands and policies. Some are deciding that energy independence is imperative to their national security and the highest priority. If more governments adopt this same stance, it will likely accelerate the energy revolution. Even with recent advancements, were are still years away from breaking our dependency on fossil fuels

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