The Willow Project is a climate disaster in the making


Wayne Hsieh/FLICKR

According to CBS News, the plan for the Willow Project will allow for three drilling sites and about 219 total wells.

Nicholas Pestritto, Staff Writer

If our country’s goal is to fight climate change and to have a better quality of life in the next several years, why is President Joe Biden approving another oil project that, according to CNN, would generate enough oil to pump 9.2 million metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere?

This massive oil project is known as the Willow Project. According to Reuters, it is a $7 billion proposal from Alaskan oil company ConocoPhillips to drill oil and gas in Alaska and would be located inside the National Petroleum Reserve, which is a 23 million acre area in the northern part of the state. This land is also the largest tract of undisturbed public land in the U.S.

Once fully set up, it will have the same effect as adding an extra two million gas powered cars to our roadways and will only speed up the effects of climate change. It will cause detrimental damage to our planet.

In early February, Biden said that he would support a scaled-back version of the project. The Bureau of Land Management published the project’s final environmental review last month and concluded with a “preferred alternative” that would include three drill sites and would take up less area than what ConocoPhillips originally proposed.

On March 10, Bloomberg was first to report that Biden and his administration have signaled their approval for the project and an official announcement was made on March 13. This will be a costly mistake that will only make the climate crisis grow into a problem that may soon become unsolvable.

When ConocoPhillips sets up these drilling

sites, it will disrupt an expansive plot of wilderness which Indigenous groups have called their home for thousands of years. The area itself is about the size of the state of Virginia and is home to a beautiful and robust ecosystem.

The Willow Project will not only destroy wildlife in Alaska, it will fast track the ongoing climate crisis.

Jeremy Lieb, an Alaska-based senior attorney at the environmental law group Earthjustice told CNN, “This is a huge climate threat and inconsistent with this administration’s promises to take on the climate crisis.”

Over the next 30 years, it is projected that the Willow Project will produce up to 287 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. That is equal to the annual emissions of 76 coal power plants, which is a third of all coal power plants in the U.S.

CNN also said that Biden’s approval of the Willow Project will break a campaign promise that he made. During his 2020 presidential campaign, Biden committed to end new oil and gas drilling on public lands and waters. Biden’s approval of Willow completely contradicts his goal to fight climate change.

Approving this project at this time is extremely puzzling. The U.S. should be moving away from fossil fuels and focusing on becoming a sustainable country. Instead, Biden’s administration has embraced another big oil project that will only worsen the climate crisis.

There needs to be another in-depth and comprehensive look taken at the Willow Project before its environmental harm will begin. According to the White House website, in 2021, Biden made it his goal to achieve a 50- 52% reduction from 2005 levels in economy-wide net greenhouse gas pollution by 2030. His approval of the Willow Project will set this goal almost out of reach.

Clearly the two major online petitions attempting to stop the Willow Project from being approved did not do much to affect the Biden’s decision. One petition through has just over three million signatures. Newsweek reported that the second main petition has over 300 thousand signatures. This just goes to show that there is a significant amount of people who do care about the Alaskan environment, our planet and are completely against Biden’s approval of this project.

Along with those two petitions against the project, most social media platforms were flooded with people talking about the Willow Project and urging Biden to not approve it. There was and still is widespread opposition to the project and the Biden administration’s approval of it.

The Willow Project will be among the largest sources of climate pollution in the U.S. A report by Earthjustice and Evergreen Action said that it also will not lower gas prices in the near or long term because it would take at least five years to build before any oil would be able to flow from the facility.

Biden went directly against his climate commitments to Americans and his work to mitigate the ongoing climate crisis seems to have been pushed to the side with the approval of this project. His administration was clearly too influenced by the political and monetary results of this situation. The climate and our planet should have come first in this decision and should have absolutely been kept at the forefront of the president’s decision.

The president should have never approved

this project and in green lighting it, he will only further distance himself from the climate and science policy goals of his agenda. Forbidding the project or at the bare minimum acknowledging those opposing it, would have shown he is still committed to the promises he made throughout his campaign.

Now those same promises are in question.