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Are Utahns willing to pay more for gas if it means no Russian oil?

U.S. banned Russian oil imports earlier this month

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A driver pumps gas at a Chevron in Salt Lake City on Monday, March 7, 2022.

A driver pumps gas at a Chevron in Salt Lake City on Monday, March 7, 2022. A majority of Utah residents back U.S. President Joe Biden’s move to ban imports of Russian oil, with 60% of those who participated in a recent poll saying they would pay more at the gas pump if it meant cutting off that country’s supply.

Mengshin Lin, Deseret News

A majority of Utah residents back U.S. President Joe Biden’s move to ban imports of Russian oil, with 60% of those who participated in a recent poll saying they would pay more at the gas pump if it meant cutting off that country’s supply.

The new Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll surveyed 804 registered Utah voters March 9-21, in the midst of escalating prices of crude oil as the global energy supply continues to tighten.

Biden announced on March 8 that the United States would no longer accept imports of Russian oil, but even before then prices were on the rise as inflation continues to send shockwaves across the country.

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In the survey, 30% of those who participated said they would not be willing to pay more at the pump to support a ban, with another 10% responding they did not know. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.45 percentage points.

The poll found Democrats were more willing to pay higher gas prices than Republicans as were those who described themselves as liberal compared to those who identified as conservative. Also, older Utahns didn’t mind paying more, while younger residents were a little less inclined to do so.

Biden was under increasing pressure to ban imports from Russia after it invaded Ukraine a month ago.

Russia is the world’s third-largest producer of crude oil and the second-largest globally when it comes to natural gas. About 8% of U.S. imports of crude oil came from Russia in 2021.

Alex Jackson, of West Jordan, was one of the survey respondents and wondered aloud why the United States would import Russian oil when it can be produced in the United States.

“I have friends who work in the oil industry. It doesn’t make sense to put money in other people’s pockets when we have it here,” he said.

Jackson said the decision on whether to pay more at the pump is one out of his control — like so many others — because of his job in the construction industry requiring mobility.

More than just Russia

But critics of the president insist the high prices for fuel are not just Russia’s fault, but a result of his hostile policies against the U.S. oil and gas industry that is leading to decreased domestic production and, correspondingly, higher prices.

“His policies on a number of levels have been meant to stymie the American oil and natural gas producer,” Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance, told members of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works on Wednesday.

“When we were able to export oil after 2015 the American producer met the increased demand globally and we helped keep the global price of oil down,” she said.

The Western Energy Alliance represents hundreds of independent oil and natural gas producers in Utah and several other Western states.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the United States became a net total energy exporter in 2019 for the first time since 1952 and maintained that position into 2020.

After Biden was elected, he suspended oil and natural gas leases on federal lands and waters, provoking lawsuits to overturn his action.

The Biden administration last week said it would resume leasing after an appellate court said producers would have to calculate the “social” cost of carbon — a move that is not likely to encourage additional production.

Additionally, the Securities and Exchange Commission is mulling a rule that would require publicly traded companies to disclose how climate risks impact their business, divulge their greenhouse gas emissions and document climate-related goals.

Sgamma said it is a constellation of domestic policies that is deterring domestic production and chasing away investors.

Clean energy advocates assert the global energy crisis should be the impetus to wean nations off fossil fuel.