In the petroleum-rich North Slope of Alaska, a major oil drilling project, known as the Willow Project, has been approved by the Biden Administration during the week of March 13. The Willow Project’s purpose has brought about major controversy; those in support of it claim it will bring economic support for Indigenous communities in the area, but perhaps the biggest issue the Willow Project will supply is the environmental impact it will have on the climate.
The Willow Project will produce up to 180,000 barrels of oil daily, which would represent around 1.5% of the US’ total oil production—the project will become the largest oil drilling project on U.S. public lands. The original project was proposed to have five oil drilling sites, but the U.S. Bureau of Land Management only approved three of the five drilling sites, reducing the original proposal by 40%.
Majority consensus comes from citizens in the North Slope region, who say that the project is “balanced” and communities around the Willow Project would benefit from the taxes it will generate to invest in infrastructure and provide public services for that region. Support for the Willow Project has come from the bipartisan congress in Alaska, including the Republican governor, state lawmakers and the senator.
Alaska senator Lisa Murkowski said the decision to approve the Willow Project is “very good” for the future of the US. Her support behind the Willow Project is geared towards the economic benefits the oil drilling project will provide, “Not only will this mean jobs and revenue for Alaska, it will be resources that are needed for the country and for our friends and allies,” Murkowski said.
Environmental activists and environmentalists have taken to social media to oppose the approval of the Willow Project, however. #StopWillow has started to spread over social media, urging people to oppose the project.
There is opposition from some Alaskan natives as well, who are worried about the impacts the Willow Project will have on native species and the lifestyles of people living in the region. Both the City and the Native Village of Nuiqsit have voiced their opposition to the Willow Project, claiming that it will not only harm the environment, but that it is a disregard to human rights.
Perhaps the biggest reason for controversy and opposition to the Willow Project is the effects it will have on the environment and the climate. Between the three approved drilling sites, the Willow Project would produce a projected 278 million tons of greenhouse gasses in 30 years. In the same time frame, that would be the same amount of greenhouse gasses emitted from 2 million cars.