The Willow Project: A Potential Environmental Tragedy


Dylan King

On March 13, 2023, President Joe Biden confirmed the Willow Project, a massive program set to start drilling oil from Alaska’s North Slope, potentially pushing our planet past environmental recovery. The project costs around $8 billion and is expected to last upwards of 30 years, planning to drill around 600 million barrels of oil.

ConocoPhillips, the leading company in the excavation, is an energy company based in Houston and has been drilling in Alaska for about 60 years, with this project being their biggest yet.

With most out-of-state Americans claiming the Willow Project is anything but good, it does come with its benefits. According to Power in Cooperation, an estimated 2,500 construction jobs and 300 long-term jobs will be created because of the drilling. 

“Alaska’s oil and gas industry provides much-needed jobs for our people, tax revenue to support our schools and health clinics, and support for basic public services like water treatment in our communities,” said George Edwardson, president of the Inupiat Community of the Arctic Slope, the area being targeted.

Along with the jobs produced, Willow could produce approximately $10 billion from federal, state, and North Slope Bureau income, according to an article by the Bureau of Land Management.

Nevertheless, most of the effects of the Willow Project lie in the cons, since over its run time, Willow will produce 33% of all coal mine carbon emissions in the country by itself. Also, the project may also provide dangerous gas leaks, damaging our environment further than it already is. 

Shortly after Willow was announced,  Senior Regional Director at the nonprofit Wilderness Society Karlin Nageak Itchoak began fighting against the project. “Willow is a carbon bomb that cannot be allowed to explode in the Arctic,” he said in the The Guardian.

The White House has also seen around 1 million letters  arguing against the Willow Project sent to them, along with around 5 million signatures on the website saying no to the project. 

In a resource by Greenly, if Willow is approved,  it would be next to impossible for the United States to achieve 50% of emission reductions by 2030, with an estimated 287 million metric tons of carbon dioxide added to our atmosphere.

“They claim that they are cleaner oil producers than producers where we get our foreign oil from. I am not sure about those claims. If it is a newer, cleaner process on the Willow project then I think it might be a positive shift in oil production,” said Vista del Lago High School Biology teacher Julienne Mack. “I know the environmental group suing to stop the project is saying that all the environmental reports are faulty, so I think it is important to halt the project until updated, transparent, accurate, current environmental reports can be produced.”

With these claims and detrimental impacts to our environment, the Biden Administration is encouraged to reconsider their options and listen to the public.