By Marc Ramsingh

The Willow Project is an oil energy venture proposed by ConocoPhillips for drilling in the “National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska” (a series of oil reserves owned by the Federal Government).

Because significant amounts of oil were found in 2016 (again in 2020), ConocoPhillips was approved by the Bureau of Land Management to develop drilling sites; initially 250 oil wells. The Willow Project was challenged in Alaskan court in 2021, however, and those efforts failed after bipartisan support was shown by Alaskan lawmakers to President Biden on March 13th, who approved the project for drilling. This project is expected to take years to reach the market as development has barely begun on the site.

The Willow Project is expected to produce up to 20 million barrels of oil per year and 9.5 million tons of carbon emissions per year.

Why is it so controversial?

The Willow Project has been working its way through the Biden administration for months to obtain approval. It has also been in the works for decades dating back to the 1990s. The Biden Administration in a large way had their hands tied due to ConocoPhillips already having leases on the land.

According to the state of Alaska and its lawmakers, The Willow Project would create jobs, increase the supply of domestic oil, reduce US dependency on forging oil, and generate economic boosts for the state of Alaska. It is also believed that The Willow Project would generate enough economic inflow to better fund social services (mainly healthcare and education).

There has been a surge in online activism against the project due to its environmental impact. Those who live close to the site oppose it, given that any carbon emissions that are ejected are going to impact them first. Earthjustice, an ecological justice group, has insisted that they are preparing a complaint and will be the leading opponents of The Willow Project if it were to be struck down.

What are the long-term impacts of the Willow Project?

The Willow Project is extremely important for the country in that it has great potential to help the state of Alaska. The Willow Project would lower oil and gas prices over the next several years, reversing the vast price increase we saw as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and a probable ongoing global recession.

This would assist millions of Americans as they fight to stay afloat in an increasingly inflationary economic environment. ConocoPhillips stated that the endeavor would generate an estimated $17 billion in revenue for federal and state governments and local Alaska communities. For the Alaskan people, this would help them the most by bringing valuable high-paying jobs boosting the Alaskan economy as well as its perceived effect of assisting social services.

What cannot be ignored is the oil and gas impact on the environment. It still is not guaranteed that the Willow Project even makes it to begin drilling, as it will face several legal challenges. “Developing and burning oil from the willow project would produce up to 287 million metric tons of carbon dioxide over the next 30 years,” according to the Center for American Progress. This would hurt the US’s initiative to address climate change and our impact on the climate.

Photo Courtesy // Robert Valarcher/Biosphoto, via Alamy //