The Willow Project : A Controversial Oil Project In Alaska

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An example of an animal that could be affected by climate change.

The Willow Project has caused controversy, and discussion, during a time when climate change and sustainability are significant worldwide issues. There has been fierce resistance from environmentalists about the proposed project led by oil company ConocoPhillips that has been approved by The Biden Administration.  The National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, is a region designated by President Warren G. Harding for its potential as an oil source in Alaska and is home to the proposed oil and gas project. There’s projected to be 600 million barrels of oil, and the project is anticipated to produce up to 160,000 barrels of oil everyday.  

 A large amount of drilling sites, pipelines, and infrastructure would need to be built as part of the project in  order to transport the oil. The oil would be extracted and used for a variety of things, including transportation, and industry. Those opposed to the project are worried about effects on the environment, despite advocates’ claim it will boost employment, and economic growth in Alaska.

A wide variety of animals are found on the North Slope, and environmentalists caution that this project may result in habitat loss, contamination of air and water, and other detrimental consequences on the environment. The Biden Administration has given the project the go ahead, explaining their needs to be a balance between environmental preservation and economic growth; ConocoPhillips promises to deploy cutting edge technology to reduce the projects environmental effect. The White House has said in a statement with CNN  the project has passed a rigorous environmental review procedure, and has complied with all legal criteria. 

The Willow controversy has been around for some time, the project was first approved by the Trump Administration in 2020, but environmental organizations filed legal challenges against it. President Biden then ordered a review of the Willow Project as soon as he took office, and halted all oil and gas leasing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. 

The project was reauthorized in March 2023 by the Biden Administration, despite objections from several lawmakers and environmental organizations; these organizations have promised to keep fighting the proposal through the judicial process, and public pressure in response. 

“It’s definitely disappointing. With everything that’s happened in the last five or six years, Bears Ears, and Standing Rock, I feel like it’s a step in the wrong direction,” biology teacher, Cody Foster said. 

“But to me, the bottom line is we shouldn’t be putting money towards new projects for things like this. It should be going towards renewable and cleaner energy,” Foster added.

Despite the controversy, some believe that the Biden Administration had little choice but to approve the project due to the previous approval by the Trump administration.

 “I am against it getting approved but I do believe that the Biden Administration’s hands were tied because the Trump administration approved the project, and the Biden Administration reduced the five drill pads to three. However, I think that they could have tried to fight against ConocoPhillips with legal action and in some way showed that they were more against the project,” Senior Lorelei Brooks said.

“I do believe that in the near future renewable energy sources can replace oil and gas. As society is beginning to realize how the amounts of oil that are being taken from our earth is impacting us, people are shifting to use renewable energy sources rather than non-renewable ones. This gives me a great deal of hope that in the near future, society will be able to shift to strictly using renewable energy sources,” Senior Mikayla Salas said.

As society is beginning to realize how the amounts of oil that are being taken from our earth is impacting us, people are shifting to use renewable energy sources rather than non-renewable ones. This gives me a great deal of hope that in the near future, society will be able to shift to strictly using renewable energy sources

— Mikayla Salas

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Environmental groups are outraged by the decision, and claim the project is a significant defeat in the battle against climate change; with a projection of an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. With an increase in greenhouse gas emissions, they urge the Biden Administration to rethink its choice, and invest in renewable energy sources.