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Opinion: The U.S. must target Russia’s oil and gas industry

President Biden requested $32.5 billion dollars to support Ukraine’s defense. Russia makes $1 billion off its fossil fuels each and every day

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High gas prices are displayed at gas stations in Englewood, N.J., Monday, March 7, 2022.

Gas prices are displayed at gas stations in Englewood, N.J., on Monday, March 7, 2022. Gasoline prices are pushing even farther above $4 a gallon, the highest price that American motorists have faced since July 2008, as calls grow to ban imports of Russian oil.

Seth Wenig, Associated Press

The unprovoked invasion of Ukraine by Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, shocked and horrified the world. Since the first day Putin’s soldiers entered Ukraine’s sovereign borders, the response from the U.S. and Europe — as well as the solidarity from many of our allies — has been strong and forceful.

However, there is one clear shortcoming in our sanctions that needs to be closed immediately: The United States and Europe must target Russia’s oil and gas industry, by far their country’s most important export.

This lack of strong sanctions on an industry that makes up over a third of Russia’s federal revenue is a gross failure that fills the pockets of Putin to fund this war every day. In response, I am introducing the Energy Unleashing in Response to the Offenses of Putin against Europeans Act, or the ‘‘EUROPE Act,” to end it now.

To put this in context, President Joe Biden requested $32.5 billion dollars to support Ukraine’s defense. Russia makes $1 billion off its fossil fuels each and every day. As long as Russia’s energy industry goes unsanctioned, Russia will have the capacity to fight this war for years, or decades, if it so chooses.

The week Russia invaded Ukraine, I was in Europe with some of my Conservative Climate Caucus colleagues for meetings with E.U. officials to hear their perspectives, and share ours, on energy and climate issues. While we were there, we saw many examples of policies that have worked in Europe, but more importantly, were able to see the policies that had negative consequences, to learn from each other.

Among my lessons learned was that America should not take our abundant natural resources for granted. In an effort to be green, many E.U. countries blocked domestic natural gas production and shut down nuclear energy plants and replaced them with Russian gas. Today Europe relies on Russia for 40% of its natural gas.

While I was in Europe, I witnessed some of the E.U.’s most senior leaders struggle with balancing their dependence on foreign energy with the sanctions they were beginning to implement, knowing it would increase energy prices at home.

This reliance on dirty Russian energy has not only hamstrung Europe’s response to Russian aggression but has scared Western leaders, including the U.S., off of sanctioning the Russian oil and gas sector. Over a third of Russia’s economy in 2021 came from oil and gas. As a Ukrainian lawmaker put it, “Every barrel of oil and every cubic meter of gas which is now bought from Russia is something which is paid by our Ukrainian blood.”

On top of this, Russian natural gas exported to Europe has a lifecycle emissions profile 41% higher than the equivalent energy from the United States. Replacing Russian energy with American energy isn’t just good for Europe’s national security, it would create American jobs, lower global emissions and cut off the finances being used to wage a war in Ukraine.

Given the facts on the ground, my EUROPE Act is the best next step to holding Russia accountable and replacing its dirty fuels with clean energy from America. My bill would immediately block Russian oil and gas from much of the global market by implementing sanctions on any foreign financial institution that engages in a financial transaction with the Russian oil and gas industries.

To work toward replacing that supply, the EUROPE Act would expedite U.S. exports of natural gas to mutual defense treaty allies, expedite the permitting of liquified natural gas ports primarily shipping to these allies, repeal harmful regulations on our domestic energy industry in order to unleash American resources, and set aside money at the Export-Import Bank to compete with Russia and other strategic competitors when the U.S. can provide a low-carbon alternative such as financing European liquified natural gas ports or nuclear power plants.

The EUROPE Act should be the next step taken to block Putin’s financing of his aggression, support our European allies, and stand with Ukraine.

Rep. John Curtis, a Republican, represents Utah’s 3rd District in Congress.