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Why Russia's Ukraine invasion spiked energy prices, in 4 charts

Russia is a huge supplier of the world’s oil and natural gas, and any cutback in supply will drive up prices.
Image: Oil refinery
A worker overlooks the low-temperature isomerization unit at the Novokuibyshevsk oil refinery plant, operated by Rosneft PJSC, in Novokuibyshevsk, Samara region, Russia, on Dec. 22, 2016.Andrey Rudakov / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine early Thursday may have occurred halfway around the world for Americans, but it produced an immediate impact on consumers here, with energy prices surging at levels not seen since 2014.

In the weeks leading up to the attack ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin, President Joe Biden warned Americans that coming economic sanctions against Russia will cause “pain” here.

Here are four charts that explain Russia’s unique position in the energy market, and how it affects Europe and the United States.

Russia is one of the biggest suppliers of energy in the world. According to data from the CIA World Factbook, it is the second-largest exporter of crude oil on the planet, after Saudi Arabia. It is also the largest exporter of natural gas, far ahead of second-place Qatar.

Russia’s position as a top supplier means that many nations in the European Union are reliant on it for energy. As many as 10 E.U. nations import more than half of their natural gas from Russia, with Finland, Latvia, Estonia and Bulgaria importing more than three-quarters of their totals.

The United States is also a large importer of Russian energy. It imports tens of millions of barrels of crude oil from Russia every month, with imports topping at 26 million barrels in May 2021.

The sheer size of Russia’s energy market means that changes in its exports or production have the potential to shake global prices.

Americans are already dealing with higher gas and energy prices, in part due to supply chain issues caused by slowdowns in production at the outset of the Covid pandemic in 2020. Experts have said that any further decrease in supply, which could happen if Russia slowed exports to retaliate for sanctions, could set off a global scramble for replacements that would drive prices higher.