WWW: Will Willow Win


Artwork by Elana Bishop

The Willow Project displayed as a willow tree with oil pipe roots to symbolize the negative impact on nature.

Elana Bishop, Staff Writer

“Economic lifeline” is the phrase supporters use to describe the welfare of a potential petroleum extraction project on Alaska’s North Slopes. Opposing the project is a petition with well over two million signatures, a petition to “Say No to the Willow Project.” Willow would represent the biggest American oil field in decades, but environmental campaigners are urging President Biden to reject it.

What is the Willow Project?

Proposed by ConocoPhillips, a Petroleum Refineries Company, the Willow project is a massive and decades-long oil drilling progress on Alaska’s North Slope. According to The Washington Post, “the project could produce up to 180,000 barrels of oil a day, according to the company — about 1.5% of total U.S. oil production.” 

What is beneficial about the project?

According to CNN, “the state’s lawmakers say it will create jobs and boost domestic energy production. Its supporters say Willow could be a much-needed new source of revenue for the region.” They say communities would benefit from taxes generated by it, which would be used to invest in infrastructure and provide public services in the area. Dan Sullivan, Alaska’s Republican Senator, said it would potentially be “one of the biggest, most important resource development projects in our state’s history.”

Why is it controversial?

The Willow Project is estimated to produce the equivalent of more than 278 million tons of greenhouse gasses over its 30-year life. Although, “the latest review, under the Biden administration, is getting pushback over its inclusion of a suggestion that 50% of Willow’s net emissions could be offset by planting more trees on national forests to capture and store carbon dioxide. Reforestation work on federal lands was something the administration already planned and needed to meet its broader climate goals,” said Michael Lazarus, a senior scientist at the Stockholm Environment Institute. 

The administration says that the approval of Willow will receive fierce criticism from climate advocates who will hold President Biden accountable after he pledged in his campaign to end new oil drilling on federal land and committed t to reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 50-52%, below 2005 levels, by 2030.

It is expected that a decision will come this month, and as early as within the next two weeks. Will his commitment hold? Or will our $31.46 trillion debt shift his values?