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Hawaii suspends Russian oil imports after Ukraine invasion

March 5, 2022 GMT
Members of the Hawaii House of Representatives wear blue and yellow in support of Ukraine at the Hawaii State Capitol in Honolulu on Friday, March 4, 2022. The House of Representatives voted 47-1 to pass a resolution condemning Russia's attacks on Ukraine and supporting U.S. economic sanctions on Russia. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)
Members of the Hawaii House of Representatives wear blue and yellow in support of Ukraine at the Hawaii State Capitol in Honolulu on Friday, March 4, 2022. The House of Representatives voted 47-1 to pass a resolution condemning Russia's attacks on Ukraine and supporting U.S. economic sanctions on Russia. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)
Members of the Hawaii House of Representatives wear blue and yellow in support of Ukraine at the Hawaii State Capitol in Honolulu on Friday, March 4, 2022. The House of Representatives voted 47-1 to pass a resolution condemning Russia's attacks on Ukraine and supporting U.S. economic sanctions on Russia. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)
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Members of the Hawaii House of Representatives wear blue and yellow in support of Ukraine at the Hawaii State Capitol in Honolulu on Friday, March 4, 2022. The House of Representatives voted 47-1 to pass a resolution condemning Russia's attacks on Ukraine and supporting U.S. economic sanctions on Russia. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)
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Members of the Hawaii House of Representatives wear blue and yellow in support of Ukraine at the Hawaii State Capitol in Honolulu on Friday, March 4, 2022. The House of Representatives voted 47-1 to pass a resolution condemning Russia's attacks on Ukraine and supporting U.S. economic sanctions on Russia. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)

HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii won’t be importing Russian oil after the owner of the state’s only oil refinery decided to suspend purchases of Russian crude in response to the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

Par Pacific Holdings Inc. of Houston said it would meet island fuel needs with other sources principally from North and South America, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

Russian oil has accounted for up to a third of Hawaii’s crude oil in recent years, much of it used for jet fuel. Other sources include Libya and Argentina.

Nationally, Russian oil accounts for 3.5% of U.S. consumption.

The move comes as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she supports banning Russian oil imports to the U.S. President Joe Biden, however, has been reluctant to take steps that would reduce oil supply given U.S. gas prices are already rising.

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Eric Wright, president of Pan Pacific subsidiary Par Hawaii, said his company has been buying a Russian grade called Sokol that is produced around Sakhalin Island north of Japan.

Wright said contracts to purchase crude oil are made two to three months in advance of delivery, and Par Hawaii has contractual commitments for the purchase of Sokol crude this month. It doesn’t have contracts for Sokol that extend beyond March.

The company doesn’t expect its decision will meaningfully affect prices paid by Hawaii consumers, Wright said.

Hawaii’s largest utility, Hawaiian Electric, welcomed the change.

“We met with Par Hawaii and expressed our concerns about buying oil from Russia, and we heard from customers who had similar concerns. Par Hawaii’s decision to suspend oil imports from Russia is the right thing for Hawaii and for Ukraine,” CEO Shelee Kimura said in a statement.

Hawaiian Electric is one of Par Hawaii’s biggest customers, using 338 million gallons of fuel oil in 2021.

The utility said it has been given assurances that its supply of oil won’t be affected by the switch from Russian crude. But the company keeps a four- to six-week supply of fuel oil on hand for emergencies.

Par Hawaii runs the state’s only refinery, which has an operating capacity of 94,000 barrels per day. It serves Hawaii’s population of nearly 1.5 million people and about 8 million annual visitors.

At the state Legislature, the House of Representatives voted 47-1 to pass a resolution condemning Russia’s attacks on Ukraine and supporting the economic sanctions the U.S. imposed on Russia.

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“Ukraine is fighting to enjoy the same basic rights that Americans are promised at birth: free speech, security in a democratic society and equal protection under the law,” said Rep. Patrick Pihana Branco, a Democrat.

Many lawmakers wore blue and yellow, the colors of the Ukrainian flag, to show their support for the embattled country.

Rep. Dale Kobayashi, a Democrat, cast the lone vote against the measure.

“I just have not seen similar resolutions condemning us for our military aggression as the United States,” Kobayashi said.