Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., took the Biden administration to task for its anti-fossil fuel policies, especially in light of the significant role energy plays in the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
At a hearing featuring members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Manchin criticized the agency's recent updated guidance on natural gas pipelines, which he believes is overly restrictive at a time when Russia is using energy against its adversaries.
"This is, in many ways, an energy war. And we need to treat it with that kind of gravity. We can’t bring a knife to a gun fight," Manchin said. He stressed the severity of the situation in light of Russian President Vladimir Putin's threat of using nuclear weapons.
"We can’t take this seriously enough," Manchin said. "So to deny or put up barriers to natural gas projects and the benefits they provide while Putin is actively and effectively using energy as an economic and political weapon against our allies is just beyond the pale."
The U.S. and allies have hit Russia with significant economic sanctions, including blocking financial transactions of Russian central bank assets. That block, however, is not comprehensive, as the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control made clear that there is a carve-out that allows certain "energy-related" transactions.
Manchin said it was problematic for the U.S. to continue relying on Russia for energy in light of the war in Ukraine.
"It makes no sense at all for us to continue importing energy from Russia where they are attacking a friendly nation seeking democracy and that the whole world has rallied behind," he said. "Nor does it make sense for us to call on OPEC countries to increase production when we’re not willing to do it ourselves despite our abundant resources."
The West Virginia Democrat said that building up domestic natural gas infrastructure would reduce costs, create jobs, and give the U.S. geopolitical power at a crucial time.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., is taking a different position, and told Fox News on Thursday that while she does support banning Russian oil, the American approach should not be to produce more fossil fuels, but to more aggressively move away from them.
"If right now we can actually run this country on solar, wind and hydro, then Russia would not have the power that it has. It would not have the money," she said.
Despite the current lack of sanctions against Russian oil, American businesses appear to have stopped purchasing it for now.
"People are not touching Russian barrels. You may see some on the water right now, but they were bought prior to the invasion. There won’t be much after that," a New York Harbor trader told Reuters. "No one wants to be seen buying Russian products and funding a war against the Ukrainian people."
FOX Business' Hillary Vaughn contributed to this report.