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According to Zhao Lijian of the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China (RDCY)

[...] Russian Security Council Deputy Secretary Mikhail Popov said, in a contrasting move to pressure its pressuring of European countries not to buy Russian oil, the US increased crude oil supplies from Russia by 43 percent, or 100,000 barrels per day over the past week and allowed companies to import mineral fertilizers from Russia

I looked for this source of the claim but I could only find the claim mirrored on Telesur.

I'm less concerned by how much, but is it true that USA is increasing it's crude oil imports from Russia year-over-year and also importing mineral fertilizers from Russia?

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  • 4
    Related if not exactly the same Q politics.stackexchange.com/questions/72398/… The Russian claim is "over the past week" not year-over-year.
    – Fizz
    Apr 6 at 18:59
  • Given the U.S. Treasury authorization which allows active contracts to proceed through April 22nd, I'm voting to close this question as being about a current event. I think it should be re-opened once data through April 22 is available.
    – LShaver
    Apr 6 at 20:33
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    @LShaver that doesn't make any sense. The claim isn't referencing the future nor the treasury: "the US increased [past-tense] crude oil supplies from Russia by 43 percent, or 100,000 barrels per day over the past week [past-tense]". Apr 7 at 3:04
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    @EvanCarroll I guess I was assuming a subtext of "the U.S. claimed they'd stop buying Russian oil and here's proof they didn't", which is impossible to refute at this point because of the Treasury authorization. However I see that you've limited the claim to just the oil purchase.
    – LShaver
    Apr 7 at 17:00
  • @LShaver all good, it happens. Apr 7 at 17:03

2 Answers 2

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While it's true that US oil imports from Russia increased in recent weeks they are lower than they were before the invasion, and by the end of April a complete prohibition will go into effect. The mineral fertilizers mentioned in the quote seem to still be allowed, as they were not part of the recent sanctions.

According to the US Energy Information Administration's (EIA) weekly imports of crude oil data here, you can see that the US imported 148 thousand barrels per day during the week of March 4th, which was the last week before the oil sanctions. After the sanctions, 38 thousand barrels per day were imported during the week of March 11th, 70 thousand for March 18th, and 100 thousand for March 25th. The March 18th to March 25th increase is likely what the quote is referring to.

However, this chart of that data shows the current imports are at a low point compared to previous years: US oil imports from Russia, showing a rise from October 2020 to July 2021, and a fall from then to March 2022

And while there was a spike in the last couple weeks the import amounts will soon drop. According to the March 8th "Executive Order on Prohibiting Certain Imports and New Investments With Respect to Continued Russian Federation Efforts to Undermine the Sovereignty and Territorial Integrity of Ukraine", found here, these sorts of oil imports are prohibited:

Section 1. (a) The following are prohibited:

(i) the importation into the United States of the following products of Russian Federation origin: crude oil; petroleum; petroleum fuels, oils, and products of their distillation; liquefied natural gas; coal; and coal products;

However, according to the Department of the Treasury's general license 17, published on the same date as the executive order, the prohibition on these oil imports will not go into effect until April 22nd:

(a) Except as provided in paragraph (b) of this general license, all transactions prohibited by Executive Order (E.O.) of March 8, 2022 ... that are ordinarily incident and necessary to the importation into the United States of crude oil; petroleum; petroleum fuels, oils, and products of their distillation; liquefied natural gas; coal; and coal products of Russian Federation origin pursuant to written contracts or written agreements entered prior to March 8, 2022 are authorized through 12:01 a.m. eastern daylight time, April 22, 2022.

As for the quote's other claim about allowing the import of mineral fertilizers, the executive order that prohibited oil imports did not mention fertilizers, and the Department of the Treasury's general license 6A on March 24th clarified that they were broadly allowed along with medical imports:

(a) Except as provided in paragraph (c) of this general license, all transactions prohibited by the Russian Harmful Foreign Activities Sanctions Regulations, 31 CFR part 587 (RuHSR), that are ordinarily incident and necessary to: (1) the exportation or reexportation of agricultural commodities... are authorized.

...

(1) Agricultural commodities. For the purposes of this general license, agricultural commodities are products that fall within the term “agricultural commodity” as defined in section 102 of the Agricultural Trade Act of 1978 (7 U.S.C. 5602) and are intended for use as:

...

(iii) Fertilizers or organic fertilizers;

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  • Are mineral fertilizers still oging to be imported after April 22? Apr 6 at 18:48
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    @EvanCarroll : Just edited in some docs addressing that. It seems that transactions for some specific agricultural items aren't allowed, however the Department of the Treasury clarified that fertilizers aren't part of the current sanctions.
    – Giter
    Apr 6 at 19:13
  • Your numbers seem to be off by a factor of 7, the numbers on the eia.gov site seem to be in "barrels per day" not total barrels for the week. Apr 8 at 22:50
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[...]is it true that USA is increasing it's crude oil imports from Russia year-over-year

No.

Before we get to the technical answer, first let's point out the lies by omission.

The US imports very little oil from Russia. The amount has been steadily dropping since the summer. Because the volume is so low, by cherry picking one can find two weeks where the volume increased by 43%, but then it will have fallen by as much the next week. The 4-week moving average is less than 100,000 barrels a day and fell to 52,000 in the first week of April.

They fail to mention that the US has banned Russian oil imports, current imports are just allowing existing deliveries to complete.

The full US ban has not yet taken effect

According to NPR, on March 8th, 2022 US President Biden banned imports of Russian oil, LNG, and coal.

"The United States is targeting the main artery of Russia's economy," Biden said. "That means Russian oil will no longer be acceptable at U.S. ports, and the American people will deal another powerful blow to Putin's war machine."

However, existing contracts continue deliveries for 45 days, or until about April 22nd, 2022. So we expect deliveries to continue.

The ban also applies to U.S. imports of Russian liquefied natural gas (LNG), products made from oil, and coal. New purchases are to be ceased immediately, but U.S. buyers with existing contracts for Russian energy have 45 days to wind down deliveries.

The US imports very little oil from Russia

The US imports about 5.5 million barrels a day, mostly from Canada, and only about 100,000 from Russia or less than 2% of US oil imports.

Russia exports about 4.6 million barrels a day. Europe and China overwhelmingly consume most of Russian exported oil making pressure for them to cut their imports very important.

enter image description here

The US currently accounts for less than 1% of Russian exports making US imports... a drop in the barrel. 😎

Cherry Picking Week-to-Week Numbers

Official data from April 2022 is not available as of this writing, but since a peak of about 300,000 barrels a day last summer, imports have fallen to less than 100,000 barrels a day in March 2022 on average.

enter image description here

enter image description here

Because the week-to-week numbers are volatile and the volume so low, one can easily cherry pick a week and claim the US increased imports. For example, between the week of March 11th and March 18th imports almost doubled from 38,000 to 70,000, but March 11th was just 25% of the previous week.

The 4-week moving average remained fairly steady during March at about 70,000 to 80,000 barrels a day. The first week of April the 4-week average dropped to 52,000 barrels a day. And, again, these are deliveries on existing contracts and should hit zero by the end of April.

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    @EvanCarroll You asked if the US is increasing it's oil imports year over year, the answer is no. And I am putting the claim in context. Out of context, the quote and claim make the US seem hypocritical and is likely an attempt to drive a wedge between the US and Europe. In context, the US imports are inconsequential, and the full ban has not yet come into effect. And magnitude does matter on systemic scales else you wind up with false equivalncies such as big industrial polluters diverting the blame at someone eating a hamburger once a month.
    – Schwern
    Apr 6 at 20:31
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    For additional context: an LR1 tanker ship (a very common vessel, one of the smallest used for crude oil) can carry 300-550 thousand barrels of crude oil. Convert your "barrels per day" graph to "tankers per day" and the numbers are in the 0.5-1 range. The Chinese spokesman is clearly analyzing the noise here and not meaningful data. A scheduling delay that causes one or two tankers to arrive a couple of days late could cause more of an "increase" than what he describes.
    – bta
    Apr 8 at 1:16
  • By "this summer" do you mean "summer 2021"? Most people would term that "last summer", and "this summer" is still future.
    – Ben Voigt
    Apr 8 at 17:59
  • @BenVoigt Thanks, fixed the ambiguity
    – Schwern
    Apr 9 at 5:39

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