Did the US double its imports of Russian oil since Joe Biden became president? Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo made that claim six days ago as part of an argument that Biden had fumbled the strategic use of energy to contain Vladimir Putin:
BARTIROMO: By the way, the US is reliant on Russian oil. We have doubled our imports from Russia in the last year. No question why President Biden is begging OPEC and others to pump more oil, particularly the Saudis.
One can certainly question the word “reliant” here, although the purchase of 600,000 barrels a day certainly makes it look that way. However, PolitiFact decided to focus on Bartiromo’s other claim — that the US hadn’t doubled Russian oil imports over the past year. Late yesterday, Yacob Reyes called that claim “mostly false,” with this headline under the rating:
The U.S. did not double oil imports from Russia in the last year
Well, that settles it! Except that the bullet points Reyes lists directly contradicts his claim while corroborating Bartiromo’s. I’ve highlighted the passage:
So the US didn’t double oil imports from Russia, except to the extent that they did double oil imports from Russia. Huh? The text of Reyes’ “fact” check doesn’t do much to clarify matters:
The U.S. imports two types of oil from Russia: crude oil and refined products such as gasoline and kerosene. Last June, the U.S. imported 848,000 barrels per day of crude oil and refined petroleum products from Russia.
This increase resulted in Russia edging out Mexico to become the second-largest foreign oil supplier to the U.S. in 2021, behind only Canada — which accounts for almost half of U.S. oil imports.
Historically, this is a notable increase — about 28% — but it is far from double.
When we asked the Fox Business Network about Bartiromo’s remarks, a spokesperson pointed to the growth in crude oil imports alone.
The U.S. more than doubled its crude oil imports from Russia, to about 208,000 barrels a day in the first 11 months of 2021, from 76,000 barrels a day in 2020.
But Bartiromo’s broader point was about the extent of U.S. reliance on Russian oil, which remains fairly modest. Russia accounted for only about 3% of overall U.S. crude oil imports in 2021 — a 2 percentage point increase from 2020.
To put it mildly, this is utter nonsense. Bartiromo specifically mentioned oil, not kerosene or gasoline or any other refined products of petroleum. Imports of oil (which Reyes narrows to “crude”) more than doubled in the first year of Biden’s presidency. At the very least, that should be a “mostly true” rating for Bartiromo’s actual claim and the part of her statement that Reyes claimed to be fact-checking.
Even if one includes all petroleum products and not just “oil,” the increase in imports of 28% certainly supports Bartiromo’s point that Putin’s getting more profit out of the US under Biden. Even on Reyes’ inaccurate basis, it’s not a “mostly false” claim by any definition of “false.”
Had Reyes limited his fact check to “reliant,” he might have had a better argument — but that’s not a “fact” to be checked. That’s a value judgment worthy of argument. Let’s put it another way, more to Bartiromo’s point: if Biden wasn’t relying on those imports — which made Russia our second-largest supplier — would Biden have gone to OPEC for a production increase to lower spot prices and keep gas-pump costs lower? If Biden’s administration wasn’t reliant on Russia for its supplies in terms of gasoline costs, why did he avoid sanctioning Russia’s energy sales over the past weeks, even up to today?
Translation from PolitiFactSpeak: This statement is accurate but terribly inconvenient to our agenda.
This is yet another example of journalistic institutions, in this case the Poynter Institute, manipulating “fact checks” to make political arguments and/or protect favored politicians at all costs, including credibility. If the media industry wonders why its consumers hold them in contempt and their trust levels are at all-time lows, this is Exhibit MCMXLVII, at the very least.