Biden approves anti-environmental project


The burning of Willow’s oil is estimated to put millions of tons of carbon dioxide into the air. [Photo by Danquyen Le]

The U.S. produces the most oil of any country: 744.7 million metric tons just in 2020, to be exact. 

The ConocoPhillips’ Willow project is an oil drilling project on Alaska’s North Slope that was first approved by the Trump administration in 2020 and later approved by the Biden administration on March 13 of this year. ConocoPhillips is an energy company based in Houston that has been drilling for oil in Alaska for years. Willow is the third largest oil project in the country and may cost up to $10 billion. In 30 years, they could produce 576 million barrels of oil or more.

The burning of Willow’s oil could put an estimated 260 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, according to climate scientists. Not only would it release harmful greenhouse gasses, but it would also require a massive amount of infrastructure to transport the oil. This would change the migration patterns of many animals living on that land. Many countries all over the world have been doing things to limit our use of fossil fuels, but this project would only make us more dependent. 

“The Willow project scares me because we already have many other environmental crises, and this would only make things worse,” Melat Mezgabe (10) said. “It makes me worry for my future and the future of the generations to come.”

There are still many, however, that believe this project will be beneficial to us. All three lawmakers in Alaska’s congressional delegation met with President Biden on March 3 to urge him to accept the project because they believe it would create jobs and lessen the United States’ reliance on oil from foreign countries. A union of Native groups on the North Slope also believe that the project would be greatly beneficial and would make them less reliant on the state of Alaska.

Many Biden supporters wonder why Biden, who promised to fight climate change during his presidential bid, approved a bill that does the opposite. The Biden administration stated that the leases that ConocoPhillips has held since before his presidency allow them the right to fight the government if they were to reject them. Legal experts say that if the Biden Administration had rejected the project, ConocoPhillips would have had the right to sue them and win billions of dollars and still get the go-ahead for starting the project. 

“I believe that the Willow Project is an unnecessary risk at this point,” Columbia Heights High School [CHHS] science teacher Ms. Emily Shields said. “We have no immediate need for oil and the 600 million tons of petroleum extracted will simply get burned and add to an already extreme climate crisis. Just getting to and creating the three drilling sites will disrupt wildlife and there are always spills when it comes to drilling. I know that there are divided views on the project because it could bring jobs and revenue, but I think that the environmental and climate impacts far outweigh the potential benefits.”

The news of this project is spreading all over the world, terrifying many environmental organizations and citizens. Although the effects of this project would be devastating to the air quality in and around Alaska’s North Slope, many argue that since the area is largely uninhabited by humans or wildlife, environmental causes are overreacting. Nevertheless, on March 15, multiple environmental organizations filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration’s decision. Led by Earthjustice, on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace USA, with the Natural Resources Defense Council as co-plaintiff, the suit claims approval of the project flies in the face of Biden’s promise to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030. 

If you believe that the Willow project should be stopped, environmental leaders recommend sending letters to the White House or getting in touch with your local representatives. In the end, ConocoPhillips isn’t going to start drilling right away, as making the infrastructure they need to start will take a while and a lot of energy, but climate scientists and environmental activists aren’t likely to give up the fight any time soon.