Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, June 14, 2023

Contact:

Bill Snape, (202) 536-9351, bsnape@biologicaldiversity.org

Legal Petition Demands Biden Administration Halt Imports of Saudi Arabian Fossil Fuels

WASHINGTON— Conservation groups petitioned the U.S. Department of Commerce today to evaluate, review and ban all fossil fuel imports from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia — including all oil products — under the U.S. Trade Act because of the national security threat these imports pose to the United States.

Although total petroleum-based imports from Saudi Arabia constitute only 6% of all U.S. petroleum imports, the staggering revenues gained by Saudi Arabia through its fossil fuel exports allow it to exert immense influence over crucial United Nations climate negotiations to phase out fossil fuels. The country has also been accused of numerous human-rights violations over the past several decades.

“For our national security and climate, the U.S. can’t keep riding the Saudis’ fossil fuel rollercoaster,” said Bill Snape, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity, which filed the petition along with WildEarth Guardians and Friends of the Earth. “Saudi Arabia’s decision this month to cut oil production to make prices jump shows the Saudis have way too much dominance and influence. Given that 40% of all world trade consists of shipping oil, gas, and coal around the globe, stemming the flow from an undemocratic and unfriendly regime is a good place to start.”

“This ban is not only the right and lawful thing to do, it’s an essential step toward the country’s necessary transition away from fossil fuels,” said Hallie Templeton, legal director at Friends of the Earth. “The Department of Commerce must use its authority to end Saudi Arabia’s oil-slicked influence.”

“Getting off Saudi oil is necessary for our national security, it would strengthen democracies around the world, and it moves us closer to phasing out all fossil fuels, as we need to do to protect people and communities, and maintain a livable planet,” said Jeremy Nichols, climate and energy program director at WildEarth Guardians.

Section 232 of the U.S. Trade Act requires the secretary of Commerce to immediately initiate an investigation to determine the impacts on national security when it receives a petition pursuant to this authority.

Although the law gives the Department of Commerce up to 270 days to provide a report to the president as to whether or not Saudi Arabian fossil fuels harm national security, the investigation can also be done expeditiously — even within a matter of days or weeks.

In 2022 alone, the U.S. imported from Saudi Arabia:

  • More than 13 billion barrels of crude petroleum oil.
  • More than 5 billion barrels of various refined oil products.
  • Over 100 million cubic meters each of propane and butane.
  • Almost 1 billion cubic meters of various other gases.
  • Over 300,000 metric tons of petcoke and other waste fuels.

The petition concludes that, for national security reasons, “an import ban by the U.S. is necessary and justified regarding the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s export of fossil fuels to the United States. Doing so would also signal to the rest of the world the commitments of the United States to combatting terror, civilian killings in war, oppression and violence toward women and minority groups, suppression of the press, and fossil fuel dependence.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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