By: Evelyn Amparo & Ashlyn Bi June 12, 2023
The Willow Project is a large-scale oil-drilling project that will take place in Alaska, proposed by the Houston-based energy company, ConocoPhillips. This company has been drilling for oil in Alaska for several years now. The project itself aims to begin drilling on Alaska’s North Slope in the National Petroleum Reserve, which is owned and controlled by the federal government. This project will be creating hundreds of permanent jobs and will potentially generate over $10 billion in new revenue for the federal government which is the primary reason for pursuing the venture. The region of planned drilling holds roughly 600 million barrels of oil, which would be monumental for the industrialization and efficiency of production in the country.
However, what concerns society the most is the Willow Project’s effect on the environment. The Willow Project has been strongly opposed and criticized online, resulting in various petitions on Change.org. The current largest petition on the website has 5.14 million signatures, revealing how strong the opposition to this project will be. The ultimate foundation of the opposition is how this will only further the global crisis of climate change. This is because oil and gas industries produce high concentrations of methane, a greenhouse gas that is 21 times more harmful than carbon dioxide. Methane release caused by oil drilling is responsible for 38% of all methane emissions in the United States, which is roughly 254 million metric tons. Comparatively, methane has 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide, therefore, contributing greatly to the climate crisis. Human activity results in the constant burning of fossil fuels as well as the draining of natural resources, which leads to a more polluted environment and a weak atmosphere. This weakened atmosphere is what leads to melting ice caps, rising sea levels, and mass extinctions of endangered species worldwide.
The Biden Administration, who approved the final steps before the project that was first pitched under the Trump Administration, estimates that the project will generate enough oil to release 9.2 million metric tons of planet-warming pollutants a year. The project cannot be “undone” as the Biden Administration has obligations to respect the existing and legal leases that Conoco has on Alaska’s North Slope as well as the fact that the project has already been approved under the Trump Administration and is now simply being carried out. Because of this, a lawsuit against Conoco or a Congressional repeal would be necessary to stop the Willow Project fully. While there are several petitions fighting the project, it is ultimately a legal issue that must gain federal attention.
Further, this largely opposes President Biden’s original stances on oil drilling as he had previously vowed to end new oil and gas drilling in order to amend the ongoing climate crisis. According to President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative, “the Administration is delivering 40% of the overall benefits of federal climate, clean energy, affordable and sustainable housing, clean water, and other investments to disadvantaged communities that are marginalized and overburdened by pollution”. While there are large groups of people on the internet speaking out against the drilling project on platforms such as TikTok, Twitter, and Change.org, it is highly unlikely that the Willow Project will be stopped as it is under legal protection. Currently, there are no active solutions to amending the inevitable pollution that this project will cause once it begins. It has been predicted that the project will start in late 2023, however, various protests and court cases arguing against the Willow Project have caused it delays. To be a part of the cause and potentially help stop the project, there are various petitions on Change.org as well as several environmentalist organizations that are hosting protests in order to gain attention towards the issues with the Willow Project. Many people are also using Twitter and Instagram to gain support and raise awareness for the negative effects that the Willow Project will cause.