(Image via nytimes.com)
Staff Writer: Sakara De Gil-Balija
On March 13th, 2023, the Biden Administration approved the Willow Project, an oil development plan set to build and operate up to five drill pads on the northern slope of Alaska in the National Petroleum Reserve.
The Willow Project is an eight-billion dollar oil drilling project run by ConocoPhillips. It is a thirty-year project that aims to produce 200,000 barrels of oil per day, which comes to 600 million barrels of oil in total.
ConocoPhillips describes itself as “Alaska’s largest crude oil producer and largest owner of exploration leases.”
In April of 2021, The White House reported that Biden plans to “achieve a 50-52% reduction from 2005 levels in economy-wide net greenhouse gas pollution in 2030.”
The Willow Project will generate copious amounts of carbon emissions, which is confusing as it directly conflicts with the Biden Administration’s reduction claims.
According to The Hill, “Greenpeace has decried the project as a “carbon bomb.”
Greenpeace is an independent organization that advocates for the protection of our environment, who fights “against the most well-funded opponents imaginable — massive fossil fuel companies, plastic polluters, and multinational corporations destroying our environment.”
As the Administration estimates, the project would release 9.2 million metric tons of planet-warming carbon pollution a year into the atmosphere.
This would affect every living and nonliving thing on the planet, spanning from humans to animals to plants, then to the air and the oceans.
While some oppose it, the Republican Senator of Alaska, Lisa Murkowski celebrates its approval, “we finally did it, Willow is finally reapproved, and we can almost literally feel Alaska’s future brightening because of it.”
Alaska’s other senator, Mary Peltola, proclaimed, “after years of consistent, determined advocacy for this project, from people all across the state and from every walk of life, the Willow Project is finally moving forward.”
She continued, “I would like to thank the President and his administration for listening to the voices of Alaskans when it mattered most.”
Though Mary Peltola is an Alaskan Native, her views do not match with many other Alaskan Natives.
Some Native communities caution that it will greatly impact climate change and make food scarce in the area, leading to an overall feeling of insecurity.
The approval of this project has been met with outrage. Many petitions have been signed, and over one million letters have been sent to the White House.
In all, opposers say that this project is completely hypocritical of Biden’s climate change agenda.
According to The Guardian, “the project is expected to create about 260 million tons of greenhouse gasses over its lifespan, the equivalent of creating about 70 new coal-fired power plants.”
Lena Moffitt, the executive director of a climate group called Evergreen Action, asserts that “approving the Willow Project is an unacceptable departure from President Biden’s promises to the American people on climate and environmental justice.”
She continues, “after all that this administration has done to advance climate action and environmental justice, it is heartbreaking to see a decision that we know will poison Arctic communities and lock in decades of climate pollution we simply cannot afford.”