Willow Project raises concerns for the future


BSEE Approves Limited Drilling Activities in Arctic Waters Under Rigorous Safety Requirements/Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement/Flickr/Public Domain

An oil drill that is located in Alaska. As part of the Willow Project, more oil drills like these will be built on Alaskan lands.

The Biden administration approved the Willow Project, a fossil fuel project in Alaska, on March 13, leaving climate activists upset and concerned for the planet.

“We are very saddened to see that the Willow Project was approved, and it definitely shows a disregard for the land and the future of America,” said Aditi Anand, the hub coordinator of the Silicon Valley chapter of the Sunrise Movement. “It is especially sad given that Biden promised to end oil and gas drilling on public land during his presidential campaign.”

Proposed in 2017 by ConocoPhillips, the Willow Project is an $8 billion project to extract oil and gas in Alaska. The project will take place in Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve and will consist of three drill pads, which the Biden administration reduced from the original proposal of five.

The project will last about 30 years and, at its peak, produce 180,000 barrels of oil daily. Once burnt, the oil extracted will result in about 239 million metric tons of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. According to the Climate Reality Project, the project will also greatly conflict with the Biden administration’s goal of zero net carbon emissions by 2050.

“The idea of breaking ground to do new drilling in a place where there is currently no drilling is frankly kind of ridiculous when you think that in 30 years, which is the length that this project is supposed to last, we shouldn’t be using oil at all,” said Ellen Montgomery, the public lands campaign director for Environment America.

According to ConocoPhillips, the project’s benefits include new jobs and economic growth. However, climate activists say these benefits will not outweigh the project’s harmful effects.

“The Willow Project has tried to justify itself through its proposed claims of bringing jobs and a boost to the economy to the areas it will impact. However, from witnessing projects like this time and time again, we know that these job opportunities are band-aid solutions to economic disempowerment rampant within this capitalist system and will bring long-term, irreparable harm to the land and to local communities,” said Adrienne Leddy, the social media coordinator for Youth Vs. Apocalypse.

While many people are frustrated with Biden’s approval of this project, the decision did not come lightly. According to a CNN article, rejecting the project could have caused legal action and fines for the Biden administration.

“We have to acknowledge that there was a lot of pressure from elected officials in Alaska and from the business community in Alaska. And, you know, there’s a legitimate concern from Americans about the price of energy,” Montgomery said.

Still, climate activist groups are attempting to get the project halted. Many organizations, including Environment America, have signed a lawsuit against ConocoPhillips to stop the project. Others are fighting the project by holding protests and contacting elected officials to get the approval reversed. According to Anand, getting involved is the best way to help.

“It’s not always enough to simply make a call that’s gonna go straight to voicemail, or that’s never gonna be listened to, every few months when there are actual tangible things you can do as part of an environmental organization,” Anand said. “And I really believe that if everyone put in a 10th of the effort that the people in our hub put in, we could change the national mindset.”