The Price of Punishing Putin: More Pain at the Pump

Public Backs Russian Oil Ban Despite Higher Prices, but More Hikes Are Likely

Gas station sign

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Punishing Russia for its invasion of Ukraine by banning its oil from the U.S. means higher gasoline prices, but so far, it’s a tradeoff the public seems willing to make.

President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced a ban on imports of all Russian oil, natural gas, and energy to the U.S., a move he acknowledged was likely to lead to even higher gasoline prices. Prices have already spiked amid fears that formal and informal sanctions against Russia—the world’s third-largest oil producer—will leave us without enough oil and the gasoline made from it.

“I think we should all be in it together,” said Jennifer Bond, a nursing home employee who was filling up at a Wawa gas station in Marlton, New Jersey, on Tuesday.

Bond said she was stunned by the “horrible” surge in prices, which she reckoned were about 60 cents a gallon higher than a week before. But it was worth the price to send a message to Russia, she said.

The public seemed to be behind the president on this issue, at least as of polling this past weekend. According to a Quinnipiac poll of 1,374 U.S. adults, 71% of respondents supported striking a blow against Russian leader Vladimir Putin by banning Russian oil even if it meant higher gas prices. Twenty-two percent were against a ban.

Increases in the national average price for a gallon of regular gas, a widely predicted result of the conflict, have already been substantial. The price soared to a record $4.25 on Wednesday, an astonishing 60-cent jump in just one week.

“The decision today is not without cost here at home,” the president said Tuesday in remarks at the White House. “Putin’s war is already hurting American families at the gas pump. Since Putin began his military buildup on Ukrainian borders, just since then, the price of the gas at the pump in America went up 75 cents. And with this action, it’s going to go up further.”

At the Wawa station, regular unleaded gas cost $4.29 a gallon. Drivers like Bond were feeling that hurt. In fact, of the 30% of adults who drove less than usual in February, more than half (57%) said higher gas prices were the reason, according to a Morning Consult poll taken in mid-February.

“It really affects us negatively because the high gas prices impact our earnings,” said Mehmet Ali, a delivery driver for DoorDash and Grubhub who was getting gas. “They don’t give any bonus for the high prices. We are still doing the same job but everything is high and we are getting the same salary.”

Doris Riehl, a retiree who works at Kohl’s and is married to a truck driver, said the price increases were hurting her finances “big time,” and blamed Biden for causing them.

“I think the current regime is gouging us,” she said.

The original version of this story was published on March 8, 2022.

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