U.S. Present Joe Biden and his administration have advanced on a decision that could allegedly damage our climate beyond repair, but what is the Willow Project and how will it change the world around us?
The Biden Administration has been weighing its options concerning the potential approval of what is known as The Willow Project, located on the Alaskan North Slope. It appears the chances of its approval are on the rise.
Karlin Nageak Itchoak, Senior Regional Director at the non-profit Wilderness Society, has been fighting against the project, citing that “Willow is a carbon bomb that cannot be allowed to explode in the Arctic.”
With the Arctic already warming four times faster than the rest of the world, can we afford to prioritize economic growth over the planet?
What is the Willow Project?
The $8 Billion drilling project known as the Willow project is the proposal to create new oil fields on the Alaskan North Slope. Allegedly, by cultivating and undertaking the oil project, the U.S. Government can produce up to 180,000 barrels of oil a day, 1.5% of the total U.S. oil production.
Project builders ConocoPhillips Alaska have proposed five drilling sites following previous concerns about potential locations.
If approved, the project would represent the biggest U.S. oil field in decades.
Ongoing environmental concerns
Although the Willow Project has the potential to be extremely lucrative for the United States, evidence has shown that the project would produce the equivalent of more than 278 million tonnes (306 million short tonnes) of greenhouse gases over its 30-year life.
“278 million tonnes of greenhouse gases over 30 years”
This number is roughly equal to the combined emissions from two million passenger cars over the same time period.
Action Network and many others have been campaigning against the proposal, stating that “The Willow Project will be devastating for all those that call the Arctic home. The noise, traffic, and pollution the project brings will disrupt ecosystems that Indigenous Alaskans have relied on for millennia. And the project threatens the already vulnerable caribou population — a vital resource many native communities rely on.”
Is there support for the Willow Project?
Widespread political support for the project can be found in Alaska, including politicians and state lawmakers.
Supporters have called the project “balanced and say communities would benefit from taxes generated by it. They say these would be used to invest in infrastructure and provide public services in the area.
Is the president going back on his promises?
Activists have been calling out president Biden over the project, arguing that he is backtracking on his campaign statements and beliefs.
Since his election campaign, the 80-year-old president has publicly made fighting climate change a top priority. Having backed a landmark law to accelerate the expansion of clean energy such as wind and solar power and move the US away from the use of oil, coal and gas, many see this new potential oil project as a betrayal.
“Our Native villages are eroding into the sea, thawing permafrost is making infrastructure insecure, and food sources are disappearing,” Itchoak said. “And this project would just exacerbate and speed up the climate crisis in the Arctic.”
According to the Guardian, “it’s outrageous that Biden seems ready to greenlight the massively destructive Willow project, prioritizing oil industry profits over the future of polar bears and other Arctic wildlife,” said Kristen Monsell, senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We’ll keep fighting it until it’s scrapped.”
Having promised to end federal oil and gas drilling, Biden has pushed towards renewable energy; however, as oil prices continued to rise due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the president has faced further pressure to increase drilling.
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