Why You Should Care About the Willow Project

On March 13, 2023, the Biden Administration would approve of ConocoPhilips’ Willow Project, the largest oil and gas drilling venture in all of America. After years of protest (the Willow Project was originally proposed and accepted in 2020) and well over 5 million signatures against it, the project was approved anyway, planning on mining 600 million barrels of oil from an Alaskan reserve over the span of three decades. The proposed drill site is currently home to many indigenous communities, as well as many threatened or endangered species such as polar bears and beluga whales. To make matters worse, the area of the proposed drilling is already warming four times faster than the rest of the world. 


If it were to go through, the Willow Project would emit over 260 million metric tons of greenhouse gasses over the next 30 years. To put this into perspective, each year rockets which use RP-1 collectively expel 1000 metric tons. This is around 78x more per year. The Willow Project will produce similar carbon emissions as 2 million passenger cars over its lifetime. Not only will this contribute to the warming climate and pollution, but will also alter migration patterns in animals such as migratory birds and caribou, and damage or destroy the habitats for many native species, and the indigenous communities which rely on these species for survival. 


Not only was the approval of the project unethical in terms of the climate crisis, but the Willow Project having the support of the Biden Administration goes against a promise President Biden made in his campaign; vowing to end the drilling of new oil and gas on public lands, and put more funding towards clean, renewable energy. He had also pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030, and to have a net zero emissions economy by 2050. However, if the Willow Project were to come to fruition, this will never be a possibility.


Although the project has been approved, all hope is not yet lost. Construction can only happen during the winter seasons which is likely to end around April, delaying the construction by another year while nonprofit organizations such as Earthjustice work on a legal case against the project. 


On March 15, 2023, Earthjustice filed a lawsuit against the Biden Administration to put an end to the Willow Project on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Friends of the Earth, and Greenpeace USA. There is still time to stop this project from developing, and prevent this climate catastrophe.