The Controversy Surrounding The Willow Project
March 8, 2023
On February 28th, 2023, the Alaska state senate unanimously voted to implement The Willow Project. The Willow Project is a proposal by ConocoPhillips, a well-known oil production company, that wants to drill for oil in Alaska. However, this has sent a controversial spark into the community of climate activists who are concerned this will only speed up global warming and release more pollution into the atmosphere.
The Alaskan Senate has issued a statement saying the project will not only improve Alaska’s economy but will also provide national security for the United States in addition to supporting communities across the state.
On the other hand, the project could cause irreversible damage to the ecosystem. Research from Open Access Government and Alaska Public Media show that the Willow Project could produce up to 180,000 barrels of oil a day, draining the earth’s natural resources and leaving detrimental “forever chemicals” in the environment. Not only that, this project will worsen carbon emissions and global warming. An article by CNN states that the Biden administration has done the calculations on Willow and estimates that it will generate 9.2 million metric tons of carbon pollution annually. Carbon pollution will warm the earth more than it’s already experiencing and render habitats uninhabitable across the North.
As such, this estimation is causing activists to question President Biden’s climate pledge’s legitimacy.
In response, the Biden administration and the Alaskan senate were able to compromise on reducing the number of drills used in hopes of calming environmental groups.
However, these efforts were futile in the eyes of many environmental groups. Groups like Earth Justice and Environment America still firmly believe that no matter the number of drill pads, the Willow Project remains a threat to our world. In order to spread awareness of their cause, activists have started circulating “#StopWillow” across social media. This tag has spread like wildfire on platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok, reaching millions of young minds— and putting Biden’s support from the youth vote in the 2024 election at risk.
For the Indigenous populations of Alaska, this project will endanger the already shrinking caribou (reindeer) species that many indigenous communities rely on. Articles from The Nation and Open Access Government also shed light upon how Willow will disrupt the hunting traditions of Alaskan natives.
Therefore, the central question is one of utmost importance. Are there going to be actions taken to save the natural world from irreversible damage?
Update as of March 30. 2023
The Biden administration approved ConocoPhillips’ Willow Project. Ignoring the 4.6 million people who disapproved of this project, it was decided on March 13, 2023, that ConocoPhillips would be allowed to move forward with its oil mining project on the northern Alaska slope. An article by CNN has showcased that this controversy has sparked the start of a possible court battle brought on by climate activists. With the project now in motion, 9.2 million metric tons of carbon admissions will be released into the earth’s atmosphere every year for the next 30 years, adding up to about 239 million metric tons. Due to Biden’s decision, the truth behind his environmental protection promises has been put into question. Officials within his administration have stated that the issues pertaining to the Willow Project weren’t enough to prevent its approval.