Natalie Zepf

Layout Manager

16 May 2023

If your plan was to move to mars in the future, you may want to start building that rocket, and fast. On March 13, 2023 the Biden administration was forced to approve the ConocoPhillips Willow Project. 

The idea behind it is to drill oil from Alaska’s North Slope in the National Petroleum Reserve, which is owned by the federal government. This project will provide 600 million barrels of oil for companies in America. According to USA today this will make up for 1.5% of the U.S.’s oil production. 

While our country could certainly use the oil, this project has been projected to produce ten million tons of carbon dioxide per year. The Willow project is projected to run for the next 30 years, that’s 300 million tons of Carbon Dioxide for the entirety of the project. For reference, the EPA reports that America already produces 5.198 million metric tons of Carbon Dioxide each year. 

ConocoPhillips is an energy company that got approval from the Trump Administration in 2020 to construct five drill pads in the National Petroleum Preserve. 

Due to its prior approval with contracts for its making being signed, president Joe Biden did not legally have a choice on whether or not he could approve the project. He was able to restrict it slightly by recusing construction to three drill pads. Due to land already being signed off and permits being distributed the Biden administration had no choice but to allow the project to continue. 

This project has been said to help gas prices, which is a prevalent issue in the United States because of the war between Russia and Ukraine. However, most agree that the benefits do not outweigh its cost to our planet.  As Environment America said, “It’s a lose-lose-lose scenario. But don’t worry. It gets worse.”

According to a CNN article, when construction of the Willow Project begins remains murky. Environmental groups, such as Earthjustice, are attempting to block the project from continuing. This is due to the environmental concerns that the Willow Project presents. 

The Willow Project, as with other climate issues, will affect our communities around us. Climate change causes more natural disasters that increase in their levels of destruction as our planet’s situation worsens. These disasters often leave people homeless or without jobs for an unspecified amount of time. With more and more people becoming unemployed, this will begin to take a toll on our country’s economy. According to an EPA report, careers involving wilderness or travel will slowly begin to decline as temperatures outdoors worsen and people would rather stay indoors at home. 

This project is also going to melt Alaska’s arctic with its extreme amount of heat and CO2 production. The arctic permafrost is what the machines for the Willow Project will be stationed on, this fragile land will melt due to the heat produced so ConocoPhillips plans on using chemicals, called thermosyphons, to refreeze the arctic area the machine lay on. These chemicals will pollute the rest of the land surrounding since the project will need larger chillers to keep the frozen ground below them from melting with this project but these chillers will release enough CO2 to melt the ice surrounding them. This will affect the millions of arctic wildlife who survive on the ice and contribute to the arctic’s fragile ecosystem. 

This project is one of the infinite examples of politics and money being valued over the lives of humans and the future of our planet. The Trump administration knew that this project would boost morale since it will help with gas prices, which will help the economy. However, they also were well aware of the cost to the environment it would cause. Biden and his administration knew it would be social suicide to approve of this project since he proclaimed helping to put a stop to climate change during his campaign. The Trump administration knew of this and went around the government’s backs to get contracts signed and put forth for this project to take place. 

The Willow Project has been protested against for years and with its recent approval from the Biden administration, the climate situation has never looked worse. There is still hope for our planet but we need to act now. There is no planet B for us to go to. We need to advocate for a greener future  for all of us to survive no matter your political background. The fate of the world literally depends on it. 

Posted by Natalie Zepf

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