Understanding the Threat of the Willow Project

Understanding the Threat of the Willow Project

Miyana Bahl, Staff Writer

What is climate change? Climate change is the rising earth temperatures and shifting weather patterns because of the overuse of oil, gas, and fossil fuels. 

Global temperatures are always going to rise a small amount each year, but humans have expedited that process and now changes that would have taken place over hundreds of years are happening in decades. Today we mostly rely on oil to fuel our cars, houses, factories, and machines. Burning fossil fuels and oil releases greenhouse gasses that are trapped in Earth’s atmosphere creating a rise in the Earth’s temperature. Society’s dependence on oil is making the earth hotter and hotter. Climate change can cause extreme droughts, unpredictable storms, and the melting of the glaciers. Despite all of the real-time evidence of our warming planet, when talking about climate change there’s still a lot of controversy. Scientists have proved and explained the effects of climate change, but some people still do not believe them. There are two drastically different ends of the spectrum when talking about climate change. One side is the side that is constantly advocating and spreading the news and facts about climate change. On the opposite side there are people who do not care for the climate and believe that there is nothing we can do. The deniers of climate change argue with the believers and create a political firestorm in the media. There are also a lot of smaller scale debates, which argue more about the causes themselves of global warming. Most of the discussion is causing people to go head to head, creating a difficult environment to make change.

According to CNN the Willow Project is the “equivalent to adding 2 million gas-powered cars to the roads.

What is the Willow Project? Recently the Willow Project garnered a lot of attention in the media. Willow is a drilling and expansion project that will be executed in Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve. The Alaskan government’s website states that, “The project is expected to produce about 180,000 barrels of oil a day at its peak and generate at least $8 billion in revenue for federal, state and local governments.” It will be carried out by the private oil company ConocoPhillips, and they will give money back to the government. As nations around the globe set goals and timeframes to transition away from the use of fossil fuels and oil, the Unites States is green-lighting the Willow Project which will further ruin the climate and contribute real detrimental effects. Willow is providing an “escape” for the government to not have to figure out ways to create and use renewable energy sources. The Willow Project would not only create more fossil fuels, but it will also disrupt the wildlife in Alaska. Alaska is home to a number of land and marine species. Building Willow would ruin their ecosystems and pollute their habitats even more. 

Willow has sparked many reactions both in support or protest. The supporters of Willow claim that it will provide jobs for many people and help build the economy. Many people living in Alaska support the idea because they believe that having this new industry will boost their economy. Other people living in Alaska are saying that this is going to disrupt their lives and cause more problems than the ones which will be “solved”.

Activists say that this project will do the opposite of helping anyone. ConocoPhillips claims that, “… [Willow Project] would create 2,500 construction jobs and roughly 300 permanent jobs.” Activists argue regardless of how many jobs it creates the carbon footprint it will leave will be too large. The people against Willow are especially upset that the Biden Administration approved the project even though during his election campaign Biden promised to, “Ensure the U.S. achieves a 100% clean energy economy and reaches net-zero emissions no later than 2050.” The issue is that they are going to be drilling on federal land meaning that the government controls who can drill on the land. This project has been in the drafts since 1999. Originally there were going to be 5 drilling rigs but Biden changed it to 3, and then approved the project. According to CNN the Willow Project is the “equivalent to adding 2 million gas-powered cars to the roads.” 

Along with younger activists, big environmental groups are opposed to this project. Protesters are filing a lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management in hopes to stop the project. According to The Scientific American opposition groups want to convince the people that  “…the federal government failed to consider the project’s indirect and direct climate risks, as well as harm to wildlife such as denning polar bears and subsistence hunting.”

What can you do? Many people do not care about the Willow Project or just do not know enough to have an opinion. For those who care there are many ways to try to prevent this “carbon bomb” from being set off. People who are not involved with the government and/or environmental groups will not be able to directly affect this project, but they can contribute. One thing that is helpful is educating others on the topic with facts and not opinions, giving people the opportunity to develop their own opinions and ideas. Another action that is helpful can be to sign petitions, post online, and write letters. Trying to raise awareness of the negative impacts of the Willow Project with the media and politicians is extremely important. Get informed and get involved!