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The Willow Project: Economic savior or environmental catastrophe?

A recent controversial, global project called the Willow Project was approved by the Biden administration on March 23, 2023, being one of the most significant oil developments to take place on federal land.

What is the Willow Project and what will it do?

The region, Willow, is an oil reserve in Artic Alaska, sitting on the state’s Northern slope. It is roughly the size of the state of Indiana and is not even 30 miles away from the Arctic Ocean. It is considered one of the most favorable areas within the United States for the purpose of oil extraction. 

The oil plan has already begun, currently in the production of constructing roads and gravel mins over the span of 499 acres. Upcoming developments include miles of roads, and pipelines, crafting airstrips, continued development of gravel mines, as well as the construction of a processing facility that will sit in the middle of the Arctic Tundra.

Willow is also a significant habitat for waterfowl, migrating caribou, and polar bears. This project will disrupt thousands of acres of habitat for threatened species with the production of industrialization and pollution. With an estimation of 576 million barrels of oil to be extracted from this area, there is also an estimated 239 million metric tons of carbon dioxide that would be released into the atmosphere over the time frame of 30 years. That’s an additional 70 million metric tons of CO2 on top of current U.S. emissions, and an additional 60 million tons globally.

Pin-pointing Biden’s motives

This project has stepped into the spotlight of the U.S. debate over the climate crisis. The Biden administration approved this notion following months of severe lobbying efforts and arguments against the project’s effects on the decline of fossil fuels over the next several years. 

Despite Biden’s promises to assert his power in environmental protection to attack the climate crisis, as well as halting the allowance of future oil drilling on the grounds of federal land, his administrators claim their hands are tied.

Administration officials say laws and leases put in place with ConocoPhillips, the oil company that has authority over the oil reserve in Alaska, required them to comply. They could have been subject to a series of lawsuits and lost billions if they’d declined the project. Biden says, “My strong inclination was to disapprove of it across the board, but the advice I got from counsel was that if that were the case, we may very well lose in court.”

The reactions that follow…

Supporters of this project mostly consist of those included in the agreement, like Alaskan leaders and some residents who see the Willow Project as a potential gain for the sake of their economy. They’re estimated to see billions of dollars added to their state’s economy and tax revenue over the course of this project. American supporters believe the project will ensure the U.S. has a strong, reliable source of energy. They also believe this federal production limits their reliance on other countries for oil.

Many Americans and Canadians are furious over this decision after receiving promises from the U.S. president to help combat climate change. They believe this project will increase the nation’s reliance on the use of fossil fuels and push away the climb toward cleaner, renewable energy resources. They also believe this decision undermines Biden’s credibility as president to encourage other countries to move toward cleaner alternatives as well, instead of depending on natural gas and oil for fuel.


Overall, the Willow Project is a global agreement dependent on the U.S. in order to boost the use of oil as an energy resource to regulate the fuel economy but the project reaps near catastrophic consequences. With the concerns surrounding the climate crisis growing every day, the Willow Project could possibly be a huge setback in the fight to restore the Earth’s environment for the lives of future generations. 


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