Russia has implemented a ban on the export of diesel and petrol, sending shockwaves through global energy markets and sparking concerns of Moscow’s use of oil supplies as a geopolitical weapon. The move comes as crude oil prices approach the $100 per barrel mark, escalating fears of Russia’s retaliation against Western sanctions.
The announcement on Thursday led to an immediate surge in diesel prices in Europe, witnessing a nearly 5% increase to exceed $1,010 per tonne. Concurrently, Brent crude oil, the international benchmark, reversed earlier losses, rising by 1% to reach $94 a barrel.
Russia, a prominent supplier of diesel and a major crude producer, had already reduced its crude exports as part of a pact with Saudi Arabia and the OPEC+ alliance, contributing to a 30% surge in oil prices since June.
Market observers are now expressing concerns that Russia’s decision to restrict oil supply comes at a time when central banks are grappling with inflation, potentially pushing crude prices above $100 per barrel for the first time in over a year.
The Kremlin has termed the ban “temporary,” with a primary objective, according to the energy ministry, of increasing the domestic supply of fuel and stabilizing prices, which had seen unprecedented surges during the summer. Retail prices for gasoline and diesel had risen above the inflation rate, causing concerns among consumers.
The ban also serves to combat “gray exports,” a practice where products intended for domestic consumption end up being exported despite being purchased on the exchange floor with compensation from the government’s road fuel-damping mechanism.
Nevertheless, suspicions are growing in Western capitals that President Vladimir Putin is exploiting Russia’s energy market influence.
This move echoes Russia’s previous tactic of using natural gas supply cuts to Europe, which resulted from its invasion of Ukraine last year, leading to a global energy crisis, inflation spikes, and widespread economic disruptions.
Diesel, a crucial fuel for global freight, shipping, and aviation, is particularly sensitive to winter price surges. Germany and the northeastern United States heavily rely on diesel for heating purposes.
Already, refined fuel markets are under pressure due to increasing demand and refinery maintenance during the summer, impacting pump prices and drawing attention from leaders like US President Joe Biden.
The US National Security Council has labeled Russia an unreliable energy supplier due to this export ban, further straining international relations.
As the ban unfolds, concerns are growing about its potential impact on the upcoming US presidential election, with former President Donald Trump expressing intentions to force Ukraine into negotiations with Russia if he secures a second term.
Experts suggest that Moscow’s objective is to disrupt Western unity in supporting Ukraine and create chaos in the lead-up to next year’s US presidential election.
“Russia still wants to cause chaos, they still want to break the West’s resolve to support Ukraine. [Putin’s] goal seems to be to make it to next year and see the impact on the US presidential election,” according to Helima Croft at RBC Capital Markets on Financial Times.
Russia, as noted by the International Energy Agency, typically exports a substantial portion of its diesel production, holding the position of the world’s second-largest seaborne diesel exporter after the US.
Despite Western sanctions on Russian refined fuel imports, these exports remain vital to global oil supplies. In August, Russia shipped more than 30 million barrels of diesel and gas-oil by sea, underlining its significance in the energy market.
Information for this story was found via S&P Global, Financial Times, and the sources and companies mentioned. The author has no securities or affiliations related to the organizations discussed. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.