Biden Administration approves devastating Alaska oil project


Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Sunrise AU/TNS

Climate activists hold a demonstration to urge President Joe Biden to reject the Willow Project at the U.S. Department of the Interior on Nov. 17, 2022, in Washington, D.C. Biden approved the project this month.

Xamara Aleman, News Editor

President Joe Biden’s 2020 promise to end new oil and gas drilling projects on federal lands has officially been broken. The Biden Administration approved one of the most significant new oil projects on Alaska’s North Slope in the National Petroleum Reserve, on March 13th, named the Willow project. 

The controversial 30-year project is the largest proposed oil project on federal land, meaning the oil from Willow will roughly produce greenhouse gasses that are equivalent to combined emissions from 1.7 million passenger cars by the end of the project itself. 

Alaskan lawmakers and Arctic Slope Regional Corporation are in support of the Willow project. After a court challenge in 2021, the Bureau of Land Management issued its final supplemental environmental impact statement in February 2023.

White House officials have said the project will not prevent the United States from meeting Biden’s prospective goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Biden vowed to end new oil and gas drilling projects on public lands and waters but continued to proceed with this huge climate threat when there is currently a climate crisis. It makes Biden look like a hypocrite to many environmental groups and Americans that believed he would make a change to our current climate crisis. 

ConocoPhillips, the developer website said, the Willow project is estimated to produce 180,000 barrels of oil per day at its peak, decreasing American dependence on foreign energy supplies. Willow is also estimated to generate up to $17 billion in revenue that will accrue to North Slope communities, the state of Alaska, and the federal government.

The government has only shown the public how much money the U.S. will gain. Why aren’t we talking about the effects this will have on our environment and people’s health in the near future of their lives?

This sudden change will result in irreversible damage and be disastrous for the planet, meaning it would be impossible to be undone or altered. Environmental groups are concerned the project could destroy habitats for native species, alter the migration patterns of many animals, and fast-warming water in the Arctic.

Not only will this affect the environment, it will impact people’s health. The United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), issued a report weeks after the Willow project’s approval showing that the world’s governments are now off track from their pledges to keep global average temperatures from rising 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit). If the worldwide temperature exceeds 1.5 degrees-tipping point, it can result in life-threatening effects. For example, rise in sea levels, extreme heat waves, and a higher percentage of death rates by the end of the century, said an NRDC news article.

Lawsuits from environmental groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) are taking action to stop the project. Asserting that the agency failed to adequately calculate the full climate impact of other future projects that Willow’s infrastructure would welcome into the region.

Biden’s campaign promises disappeared when he saw ConocoPhillips holding up three money signs and a possible reason why he should not get reelected in 2024. According to the ConocoPhillips website, Willow will be built using materials primarily made and sourced in the U.S., and has the potential to create over 2,500 construction jobs and close to 300 long-term jobs, making that the only positive outcome of this project.

The Inflation Reduction Act, signed by President Biden in August 2022, invested nearly $370 billion in clean energy and greenhouse gas reduction, the most significant piece of climate legislation in U.S. history. 

Endorsing the Willow project will have devastating outcomes for the United States and the world which they can not afford right now. We should be focused on preserving wildlife habitats and pollution, not destroying Alaska’s fragile ecosystem.