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We’re still buying Russian oil, but why?

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White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a White House press briefing.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during the daily press briefing. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

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It’s Hollowed-Out Shell Thursday, and while we’re not feeling totally empty, we’re a little confused about the state of the energy market in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Russia faces sanctions from the West in everything from retail to sports, but the United States says it has no plans to stop buying Russian crude oil. The Biden administration wants to limit disruptions to the global energy supply, but we still have questions. Next, we examine whether this moment of energy uncertainty will accelerate a global shift to clean energy. To wrap things up, our hosts share a welcome Make Me Smile, and a crafty one!

Have a question for our hosts? Did you see something that made you smile? Share it with us! Email or send a voice memo to makemesmart@marketplace.org. Or leave us a voice message at 508-827-6278 (508-U-B-SMART)!

Here’s everything we talked about on the show today:

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Make Me Smart March 3, 2022 transcript

Note: Marketplace podcasts are meant to be heard, with emphasis, tone and audio elements a transcript can’t capture. Transcripts are generated using a combination of automated software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting it.

Kai Ryssdal: Totally, totally. You know, it’s funny as you’re doing … Hey, everybody I’m Kai Ryssdal. Welcome back to Make Me Smart, making today make sense is what we try to do on this podcast. Glad you could be here

Marielle Segarra: And I am Marielle Segarra. Today is Hollowed Out Shell Thursday. First, we’ll check in on the news of the day and then we will share some make me smiles. But before that, Kai, how are you?

Kai Ryssdal: Well, so we were talking about this and I don’t know if it’s actually gonna make it on the pre roll. And if it does make it on the pre roll Bridget Bodnar then I’m you know, I guess I’m wasting everybody’s 60 seconds here. But  and we talked about it right. So Monday was rough for both of us. I think we’re both little both a little hollowed out. And Thursday today. Um, you know, a little cranky, but I’m not. I’m not really hollowed out. So I don’t know. What about you?

Marielle Segarra: Yeah, I’m doing okay. I think like I have have adjusted a little bit. And I am doing those things that bring me joy. I’m trying to incorporate that every day. A little bit of – a little pocket of something. Yeah.

Kai Ryssdal: Are you? Are you still on the beach somewhere in Puerto Rico?

Marielle Segarra: Oh, yeah. So it’s not that hard to find the joy.

Kai Ryssdal: Right. Hollowed out shell, my patootie, oh man.

Marielle Segarra: Not so much. So I think you should start today, because I’m going to kind of build off of what you’re talking about.

Kai Ryssdal: Okay, so let’s talk oil and energy and the current state of play, right? There are sanctions on something like 80% of Russian finances. It has been shut out of most of the global economy, except for oil and gas, right. And it’s been shut out except for oil and gas. Because the West needs Russia’s oil and gas. Europe specifically needs natural gas for heating. And the United States needs its oil because we consume a lot of oil and for a whole lot of reasons, we cannot meet our own demands. So Jen Psaki was asked today, the White House Press Secretary was asked today, if there’s a plan inside the White House to stop buying – for America to stop buying Russian oil and gas, we import something like 600,000 barrels of Russian oil every single day and on $100 a barrel. That is a boatload of money that is going to Vladimir Putin in Moscow and thus is helping to in some indirect way, fund the war in Ukraine. And Psaki said, “we do not right now have a strategic interest, the United States, in maximizing the impact on Russia while minimizing impact –” Sorry, “we did not have a strategic interest in reducing the global supply of energy, and that would raise prices at the gas pump for the American people around the world.”  So I think what it is for the Biden administration is that they don’t have a political interest in reducing the global supply of energy, because that would bring home to everybody the costs of the war. And Biden said this 10 days ago in his speech, that it’s going to hurt us, in addition to hurting the Russians, sanctions. And look, gas on average in California now is $5 a gallon, the national average is 374, which is really high. And I totally get it. But it seems to me to be incongruous, for us to be sanctioning the bejesus out of the Russian economy and at the same time sending them millions of dollars a day for oil. I don’t quite get that. I honestly don’t. And I’m not sure it’s sustainable for the White House to do that. I’m just really not. It’s kind of stunning.

Marielle Segarra: And the White House is at odds with legislators here. Right. There’s a bipartisan proposal to block Russian oil imports.

Kai Ryssdal: Yep. Totally. Yeah, totally. Totally. And and it’s Republicans, mostly Republicans, but also a couple of Democrats from fossil fuel producing states who say, “hey, let’s just raise our production here. Let’s pump more oil and gas out of ground.” And you can see how that’s a challenge for a Democratic White House, right, which has really strong progressive  pressure to enact a green agenda. And oh, by the way, if we pump more oil and gas that does really bad things to a green agenda. So it’s really, really hard. But I think geopolitically and credibility wise, it is tough for the Biden administration to hold the line on sending all that money to Moscow. I really, really do.

Marielle Segarra: So I have two reactions here. One is I know you talked about, maybe on this show and also on Marketplace, about the polling showing that Americans were actually okay with some increases in prices.

Kai Ryssdal: Yeah, yeah. So that was really really – that was, yeah, so that was last week. Right. It was a Washington Post ABC News poll that said respondents basically said, “Yes, definitely, we totally were in favor of sanctions, even if it costs us a little bit more.” And it was like 60:20, or something like that. 60 in favor, and then the Post said, “Well, what if gas costs $4 a gallon, are you in favor of it then?” And then it went 51:30, like in a heartbeat. And so you can see, it’s a really sensitive issue, the public is attuned to it. And look, I’m gonna, I’m gonna, ah God. I love my minivan. But I’m going to go out this afternoon, and I’m going to pay what, 16 gallons times five bucks, I’m going to pay 80 something dollars $97 to fill up that car. And I need to buy myself a Tesla. That’s all I’m saying. You know?

Marielle Segarra: Yeah, well, this actually gets at something I was wondering about, and what I wanted to talk about whether this war is going to accelerate the shift toward clean energy. It’s something that we know needs to happen, right, that climate report came out the other day, things are dire, we’re well into the danger zone. So in the way that the pandemic pushed us forward by possibly, you know, decades in terms of how many people are working remotely, and showing that that was possible? Does this war create an opportunity? And what does the reality look like in that transition? Because, okay, if we do cut off Russian oil imports, and if other countries do the same, yeah, you’ll need to have an alternative. What are the incentives for the companies that create those alternatives? What are we incentivizing? Are we incentivizing fracking? You know, or do we incentivize more green energy? And how quickly can that happen?

Kai Ryssdal: Yep. Yep, I think I think it may well be a forcing function, right? We’re still so early in this thing. I mean, we’re still so early. I saw a great tweet today, appealing to my interest in history, one week into the war in 1939. Right? The Germans invaded Poland on September the first 1939, one week into the war, they still hadn’t captured Warsaw, they still hadn’t captured most of the country. But we all know how that turned out. So we’re so early yet we are so early yet. But it might be that this is the forcing function on a whole lot of things on a whole lot of things. So anyway, I don’t know.

Marielle Segarra: Yeah. Well, there’s one other thing that I wanted to talk about, because it is Hollowed Out Shell Thursday. So I felt like it’s okay to go a little dark.

Kai Ryssdal: You don’t have to, but okay.

Marielle Segarra: But here it is, there was a Time’s story that caught my eye about the how the supply chain is affecting tombstones, and they’re – so basically, because if you’re making a tombstone, you need to use certain kind of rubber stencils to carve the letters in and 3M was a big  maker of those stencils. And then it stopped making them because of its own supply chain considerations and business strategy as a result. And so tombstone engravers now, they only have a certain number of those stencils left, and they can get them from smaller suppliers, but there just aren’t enough. And they could maybe get them from China, but that has its own supply chain concerns. So what’s happening is that people are just waiting a long time, like a year or more for a tombstone for their loved one. And I think this is important, maybe it’s obvious, but it’s like, I’ve been thinking about this, as I’m in Puerto Rico, I think I told you that I’m looking for the graves of some of my family members who died as children or infants in Puerto Rico, my aunts and uncles. And I know where they’re buried, but I don’t know where in the cemetery they’re buried in. It’s very hard to find, for a lot of reasons having to do with record keeping and financial stuff. But it’s important. The reason I keep going is because I want to honor them, like having seeing their literal tombstone, having it etched into stone shows that they existed. And it it shows that like somebody remembers them, that’s why we do this. And that’s why we have tombstones is the place to go. It means a lot to people who are grieving and to future generations. So having to wait so long for it, I think adds to people’s grief.

Kai Ryssdal: Yeah, that’s a really good point. That’s a really good point. And it’s – look this this war and this, this is a terrible thing to say this is relatively speaking, right? It’s the biggest land war in Europe since World War Two, we all know that. But relatively speaking, it’s it’s contained, and it’s small-ish, right? And it’s already having these effects. And please don’t at me what the whole it’s huge and it’s catastrophic for the people of Ukraine. Yes, it is. But the impact it’s having on the global economy. All the way down to grave – tombstone stencils is outsized. And I think it talks about how we’re globalized and how interconnected everything is and all of that.

Marielle Segarra: So I do need to say I believe that this supply chain issue was already the case before – because of the pandemic.

Kai Ryssdal: Well, okay.

Marielle Segarra: It but it does, though, like, it’s, there are more people. Unfortunately, there are more people dying now because of the pandemic and because of this war. And so that adds to the demand problem. Yep, yeah. So that is pretty dark. And I think it is time to smile.

Kai Ryssdal:  Let us do that. Good grief. Alright, I’ll go first, just because mine’s not a smile. It’s more of a oh, this is a good thing. The White House – there are give or take 30,000 Ukrainians in the United States studying, working, doing what have you. And the White House today granted them what is known as TPS, Temporary Protected Status, which means they can stay while there is unrest in their homeland. They don’t have to go home and endanger themselves. It is time limited, although typically those do get extended for quite a while. And it kind of depends on what happens with the war. But this is a good thing, right? Because we can’t be throwing people out and say, “Hey, you go back to a war zone.” And I’m in favor of that. I think that’s a good thing. So yeah.

Marielle Segarra: Yeah, for sure. That’s like a head nod. Glad that happened. Okay, well, mine is around that idea of like you and I talked about needing to find those pockets of joy in your life. And I have realized that for me, one of the things that brings me joy is like hunting for treasure or discovering things. And so I was out on the beach this morning, listening to Marketplace actually, in my headphones, and hunting for seaglass. Have you ever done this?

Kai Ryssdal: Nice.

Marielle Segarra: Have ever you found like seaglass?

Kai Ryssdal: I’ve found it. Yeah, I’ve never gone looking. But it’s really it’s super cool. The way it all gets smooth, and everything, super cool.

Marielle Segarra: Yeah, it’s basically you know, it’s pieces of glass that were once trash that were pollution, you know, from could be hundreds or even thousands of years ago, it gets tumbled in the ocean and it comes out as treasure you know, you can you can look at a piece of glass that’s blue, and know because it’s blue. It probably came from this era in history, because blue glass was only made really during this era, or you know the shape of it. Or you could be holding a piece of pottery too from like 1000s of years ago. It’s amazing.

Kai Ryssdal: That’s cool. That is super cool.

Marielle Segarra: Yeah. Yeah, that made me smile today.

Kai Ryssdal: So did you find good stuff? Are you bringing good stuff home?

Marielle Segarra: I did and apparently there – so I found green and clear and a little bit of blue and some shells that hopefully don’t have anything living in them because they’re in my purse right now. I hope they haven’t spawned or anything the snails that come out of them. But I’m gonna maybe make some earrings or like maybe when I get home.

Kai Ryssdal: Oh nice! Do you make your own jewelry?

Marielle Segarra: I haven’t yet but I make all kinds of stuff. I make little reindeer out of Christmas tree scraps and stuff like that. So I think I can I’m gonna try.

Kai Ryssdal: Well good. That’s cool. That’s cool. All right, Charlton, hit us on the way out here, pal. Here we go. That’s cool. I didn’t know that.

Marielle Segarra:  I kind of can see you making tiny reindeer out of Christmas trees.

Kai Ryssdal: I’m not a tiny reindeer guy, no. Alright, we’re done. I’m back tomorrow with Kimberly for Economics on Tap live streaming on YouTube as well. 330 Pacific 630 Eastern and once again, YouTube, Discord, all that good stuff.

Marielle Segarra: And keep sending your comments and questions as emails or voice memos to makemesmart@marketplace.org. Or leave us a message at 508-UB-SMART. Oh my God. We ran out of time.

Kai Ryssdal: We ran out of music. Sorry, no credits today.

Marielle Segarra: We made this ourselves.

Kai Ryssdal: I’m kidding. Marissa. We know what that is, Marque Greene, we know what he does today’s episode Charlton Thorp fine, whatever. Those people do all the work.

Marielle Segarra: Bridget Bodnar, senior producer. Donna Tam, director of On Demand.

Kai Ryssdal: Let’s get new hosts who can hit a freakin time post shall we.

Marielle Segarra: Oh man.

Kai Ryssdal: That’s a little embarrassing.

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