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The Willow Project: a Promising Solution Or Harmful Deception?

Youth Voices

March 30, 2023

President Joe Biden had initially approached the existential threat of climate change with strong promises to revitalize the nation’s energy with clean electricity and to avoid oil drilling on federal land. He had particularly assured voters of the latter during a last-minute Democratic rally. When a climate activist pressed Biden with questions at the event, he responded that oil drilling would not occur under his orders and that the drilling in the Gulf of Mexico was not associated with his presidency.

However, with the most recent approval by the Biden Administration in regard to the Willow Project, it has sparked public outrage throughout the country. The Willow Project in question is affiliated with the ConocoPhillips company, with the goal of venturing through Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve and operating three drilling pads. It has been predicted to produce up to 180,000 barrels a day within a 30-year span, which would negatively contribute to at least a third of carbon emissions among all similar plants within the United States.

Biden presently sits in the hot seat in the face of online activism and has already declared a statement as to why the Willow Project supposedly fits his narrative economically. It was claimed that there were already existing and valid leases by the Houston-based ConocoPhillips company which would have cost the Biden Administration a great deal if they had rejected the plan. It was previously approved by the Trump Administration with originally five sites for oil drilling, but the Biden Administration had reduced it.

The surrounding controversy has enabled environmentalists and Alaskan natives to make use of social media platforms to express their sentiments against the project. Instagram posts that have been formatted with an aesthetic appeal, have successfully reached thousands of the app’s users with alarming facts, and content creators on TikTok have already begun to use their voices to amplify the message of the climate movement. The social media hashtag, #StopWillow had been trending throughout its legal process being approved.

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What are the arguable points that make Willow out to be beneficial?

According to the company that is funding the Willow Project, it is expected to deliver billions of dollars in revenue which would secure the stability of the nation and would provide at least two thousand jobs for American citizens. This is enticing for the working class and those in support of businesses because it contradicts the effects that have occurred as a result of the COVID lockdowns, where it was made difficult for people to attend to their jobs in the workforce.

The additional war between Russia and Ukraine establishes the idea that the foreign powers that have access to abundant supplies of oil are willingly supporting Russia and thus manipulating gas prices to be higher in the United States.

In light of the environmental factors, there is the common argument that billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide are already released annually worldwide, so in that sense, the Willow Project would have no comparable, lasting impact. Wouldn’t it? The proposed supply and demand argument also begs the question: If not for the company ConocoPhillips fighting for the rights to drill oil on the expansive lands of Alaska, is it to say that other companies wouldn’t also later pursue the same project in Alaska or other naturally promising locations?

What are the counterpoints that make Willow out to be harmful?

While the Willow Project offers economic stability by providing construction and plant jobs, the way in which this is done is not an ethical practice. There are other programs that the federal government could invest its time and money in that would truly help the working class pursue balanced jobs that could financially support them. There is no clear understanding as to why the Willow Project is deemed plausible, especially since there are other means to give jobs to American citizens.

It is at the expense of the world’s climate and communities that are being targeted. The project would disrupt the lifestyles of the Alaskan tribal members of Nuiqsut, as well as the city populations that neighbor the oil drilling sites. The revenue and jobs being provided as a result of Willow are not as crucial as the well-being of the state’s natives.

In some cases, several communities are likely to live elsewhere as the project is underway and as the weather in their areas progressively worsens because of climate change. This could negatively impact the rich cultures that they would be leaving behind along with their geographical residences. It would also devastate the ecosystems and alter the migratory patterns of the polar bears, caribou, birds, and other wildlife that reside in Aalaska’s North Slope.

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As for the ending of foreign independence, the Willow Project wouldn’t be enough to allow for that to happen, especially as it only accounts for a small fraction of the whole country’s oil supply. With that said, there is no necessity to involve going through with Willow if there are other solutions like renewable energy or other sustainable projects that could be built to at least slowly reduce the need for fossil fuels.

While this could take some time, it would be a more ethical approach and a better long-term investment for the economy of the nation and other nations which rely on a prospering natural environment to enhance their infrastructure.

The climate debate that claims the Willow Project would have no large effect on the nation just because the annual global carbon dioxide emissions are much greater, is an improbable one. The approval of Willow is nonetheless contributing towards the bigger issue at hand, making it worse, even if it is not comparable to other numbers.

It has been found that the Arctic was rising in temperatures by 3x to the global annual average and with this project underway, would only influence more decisions by the federal government to be in favor of destructive projects with motives similar to Willow. If the government doesn’t step its foot down in terms of damaging events like this, it would likely lead to a domino effect in which there would be more excuses to be made that would ultimately give permission for plants to dominate and strip lands of its natural resources.

@zcxmovie Rip our future #willowproject #savetheplanet #earth #climatechange #alaska #oildrilling #foryou #boost #thewillowproject #savetheoceans #stopthewillowproject ♬ Fourth of July - Sufjan Stevens

The motion towards clean energy by the year 2050 is not enough to prevent the rapid increase of carbon dioxide emissions, especially with the expansion of oil, coal, and natural gas production as evidenced by the Willow Project. Despite the attempts to make it appear as if Willow would be beneficial, in reality, it would only be a short-term positive where the US can gain money and oil. No matter the political party, there is apparent hypocrisy involved, and climate change is an impending scientific issue that would not just affect the United States, but also the entire globe as a whole.

Kryster Carmela Labarda
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Writer since Feb, 2023 · 2 published articles

Kryster Carmela Labarda is a Filipina-American that has a devotion for writing, videography, and public speaking— all pursuits possessing the motive to provide exposure to those from underrepresented backgrounds. She admires the way in which words can impact a community and tell an expressive story within the humanities and arts, while also loving the complexity involved with the natural sciences. Kryster aims to reach teenagers from around the world to address the trending and controversial topics that she has navigated through and is still learning from.