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Some of the biggest U.S. importers of Russian crude oil have started suspending their purchases of the commodity, including Monroe Energy, which is the third-biggest U.S. buyer of Russian oil.
Bloomberg reports that Monroe Energy had stopped importing Russian oil "for the foreseeable future," while another importer, Par Pacific Holdings, would not enter into new purchase agreements but would receive already contracted volumes.
The biggest U.S. importer of Russian crude, Marathon Petroleum, declined to say whether it will continue buying Russian oil, the Bloomberg report said. Other large importers, including Valero Energy, Motiva Enterprises, Phillips 66, and PBF Energy also declined to comment.
The United States has so far resisted imposing direct sanctions on Russia's oil and gas industry, although it did announce it would halt exports of equipment and technology necessary for the operation of oil and gas wells and refineries.
Earlier this week, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the Biden administration was "very open" to sanctioning Russia's oil and gas industry, saying, "We're considering it. It's very much on the table, but we need to weigh what all of the impacts will be".
"We're not trying to hurt ourselves, we're trying to hurt President Putin and the Russian economy," Psaki also said, as quoted by MSNBC.
Although Russian oil and gas is currently technically spared from sanctions, the SWIFT ban and the concern that more sanctions would follow have made oil buyers reluctant to deal with Russian cargoes. Some refiners and traders are uncertain how the bank credits would work; others are staying away to avoid reputational damage.
"Going after Russian oil and gas at this point would have an effect on U.S. consumers and actually could be counterproductive in terms of raising the price of oil and gas internationally, which could mean more profits for the Russian oil industry," said the deputy director of the National Economic Council, Bharat Ramamurti, as quoted by Reuters, adding, "So we don't want to go there right now."
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
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Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com