The Willow Project is Destroying Alaska- Here’s What You Need to Know

Alaska’s oil drilling project has been approved by the government after multiple petitions to stop it from happening.

Grae Stockhausen, Features Section Editor

The Willow Project is a serious oil-drilling project proposed by ConocoPhillips in 2020 to construct and operate five drill pads with 50 oil rigs each, amounting to a total of 250 oil wells in the northeast portion of the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska. This project would last for decades and would end up producing around 180,000 barrels of oil a day. The area that would be drilled has around 600 million barrels of oil, which would take time to reach the market due to the project needing to be constructed still. 

This project was approved on March 13 and is predicted to have a lifespan of 30 years. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management approved three drill sites, and the Interior Department says the final approval reduces the drill pads by 40%. As well as that, ConocoPhillips has also agreed to give up rights to a large portion of land, about 68,000 acres. The reduction of land area used also reduces the project’s freshwater use and eliminates the need for infrastructure related to the two rejected drill pads. Using the oil from Willow would produce 9.2 million metric tons of carbon a year, which is equivalent to adding two million gas-powered cars to the roads. This approach has roughly 8% reduced emissions from the Houston-based favored proposal though.

Support for this project is scattered, ranging from people in 100% favor of this project continuing while others creating petitions to stop this project from even being a thought. In Alaska, there is widespread political support, but in areas closer to the drill site’s location, such as the Native village of Nuiqsut, support isn’t prominent. Mayor Rosemary Ahtuangaruak is vehemently opposed to this idea, worried about the caribou and residents whose quality of life may decline due to this recent approval of this project. 

Not only is this an environmental concern, but it’s also a straight disregard of a promise made by Biden, whose whole campaign was based on the idea of ending new oil and gas and moving to clean energy to cut carbon emissions by 2030. Since Biden took office, he has backed a landmark law that enforces the expansion of clean energy, such as solar power and wind, and stepped back from the use of coal, oil, and gas. Approving this project has derailed his own climate goals. Just because Biden decided to not take CoconoPhillips to court doesn’t mean that other people won’t. Earthjustice, an environmentally-driven law group, has begun preparing a law case against CoconoPhillips and intends to sue and take them to court. They also intend on arguing with the Biden administration’s authority to protect Alaska’s land resources.

If the Willow Project continues, global warming will continue to progress at a more alarming rate than before. If the Willow Project continues, not only will the threat of global warming continue to rise at an alarming rate, but the economic stability of the United States will also collapse.