Willow Project Approved: What Does It Mean For The Next Generations?

credits to getty images
credits to getty images

On March 13, 2023, the Biden Administration officially launched the Willow Project into action. The Trump administration had originally approved this project during his presidency in 2020, and many had hoped it would be abolished when Biden came into the office on January 20, 2021. However, President Biden’s actions on March 13 would not only change the world’s view of his presidency but also of his administration’s ability to support the United States from over-emission of air pollution.

The Willow Project was first introduced by ConocoPhillips, a Houston-based energy company that spent years drilling their way through Alaska to harvest the state’s oil supply. The project was originally a proposal to construct drills, a pipeline system and roads across Alaska to collect their oil. Initially, the Biden administration aimed to reduce the amount of drilling because of the environmental ramifications it caused.

Regardless, ConocoPhillips held permits previously approved by the Trump administration in 2020– the Biden Administration knew that if they attempted to reduce ConocoPhillips’ drilling efforts, they would be facing a public lawsuit. Not to mention, the Biden administration could not ignore the positives of the Willow Project such as lower gas prices, heightened manufacturing, and job opportunities. They eventually decided on moving forward with the project.

Once the legislation was proposed, and eventually approved, the Biden Administration received widespread backlash because of the inevitable environmental issues the drill pads would cause. Over 3 million have signed the Change.org petition to overturn the president’s decision, and over 1 million letters have been sent directly to the White House to advocate for the abolition of the project.

Cynthia Palmer is the senior analyst for petrochemicals at Mom’s Clean Air Force, a division of the Environmental Defense Fund, and feels that Biden’s decision making is flawed.
“Biden knew he would be sued either way. Either by the native peoples, environmentalist groups, EarthJustice, Center for Biological Diversity or he would be sued by ConocoPhillips… and he’s chosen to fight the environmentalists,” Palmer said.

Many environmentalists, Palmer included, hold the view that this project is only going to worsen the state of Alaska, which is already suffering from the effects of global warming. Not only will the project physically harm the state’s natural infrastructure, rid many animals of their habitats and cause worsening air pollution, but it will also create more plastic.

“[The Biden Administration] is supporting the buildout of the plastics industry. [This problem] is under the radar of climate change campaigns, so, the Biden Administration is promoting the buildout of these ginormous plastics production facilities,” Palmer said.

Because plastics and petrochemicals are made from oil gas and coal, they are the lifeline for the fossil fuel industry.

“In fact 2022 was the biggest year in history for the building of new ‘cracker’ plants, which are plastic production facilities,” Palmer said.

As a result of the environmental ramifications of oil drilling, this is not a problem isolated to Alaska.

The project’s future impacts cannot yet be determined, yet many students are already considering the impacts of this legislation.

“As someone who’s a part of the environmental club and comes from a family of environmentalists, I do have a nuanced opinion. The willow project itself will bring a lot of jobs to Alaska, and it will produce oil which is very good for Alaska’s economy. But, there are also factors to take into consideration like the damage it’ll do to the wildlife there and the ecotourism industry,” junior Keiran Gibbs said.

However, Sophomore Julia Markowitz disagrees with the advancements of the Willow Project.

“I feel like [the Willow Project] is counteractive for the whole “wanting to save the world” thing, I feel like it’s doing the opposite. As global warming worsens, it will become more prevalent in day to day life, more noticeable how much our earth has deteriorated. As we grow up and as the generations after us grow up it’s gonna be very clear how bad it’s gotten. Earth first. It’s our home,” Markowitz said.

Students here at our school have varying opinions just as many Americans do, and the nation is in a disagreement on what is best for the country–preserving the environment of Alaska, or the prosperity oil will bring to America’s economy.

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About the Contributor
Harper Kois
Harper Kois, Reporter
Harper Kois is a junior at Yorktown and in her second year reporting for The Yorktown Sentry. She is passionate about youth advocacy and is one of the head co-chairs for the Arlington Teen Network Board. Outside of school, Kois loves to travel to new places and enjoys watching her favorite TV shows including New Girl and Community.

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