Willow Project initiates new conversations about the planet


Oil drilling site in Alaska.//Photo courtesy of Areta Quazi

Areta Quazi, Hard News Editor

   On Monday, March 13, 2023, the Willow Project, an oil drilling project in Alaska introduced by ConocoPhillips, was approved by the Biden administration. This project’s purpose is to boost production of oil to plateau consumer energy prices throughout the country. This is not an issue that has caught the attention of many at WHS, and students vary in knowledge about the project.

   “As of now, I know the Willow Project is an oil drilling initiative in Alaska,” said sophomore Eva Odio. 

  The Willow Project will ensure the United States has a reliable, domestic supply of energy, while producing billions of dollars of economic activity and tax revenue in Alaska. On the contrary, excess oil drilling of the Willow Project could prolong the country’s reliance on fossil fuels, and harm local animal and human populations.

   Many do not fully understand the extent of the economic and environmental benefits and harms that the Willow Project may cause. Due to the polarizing nature of this topic and the tendency for different news and media outlets to present a one-sided view, this project has caused controversy among many Americans.

   “As with a lot of oil drilling, natural gas, and pipelines, there are people on both sides with reasonable arguments for their side,” said biology teacher Camille Tulloss. 

   When considering the controversy over how the project will affect the climate, many have strong opinions on opposing this oil drilling proposal. 

   I think that the Willow Project is a horrible project that should not [have been] approved nor should have been suggested by the government in the first place,” said sophomore Inessa Berman. “The U.S. already has a large carbon footprint and has contributed a lot to climate change, and this project would make our damage that much more greater.”

   In addition to this opposing argument, the Biden administration is being criticized for what many believe to be inconsistency. The possible environmental impacts of the project include over 499 acres of a carbon footprint, an estimated 239 million metric tons of released carbon dioxide, and further contribute to spills, leaks, and blowouts of oil.

   “The Biden administration has committed to lessening the United States’ impact on climate change, but this project contradicts that goal,” said Berman. 

   Biden had made promises of prioritizing environmental protections, but he had also promised voters that he would fight high oil and gasoline prices which could have influenced his decision to approve the project.

   There are many arguments to support the project. Many United States leaders support this project because it will be beneficial to communities to lessen taxes, investment in infrastructure, and public services. The Willow Project can develop an estimated 300 permanent jobs, and generate between $8 billion and $17 billion in new revenue for the federal government, the state of Alaska, and local communities.

   “That’s always a tough argument,” said Tulloss. “That’s why a lot of people think we should stick with coal because it provides so many jobs for families who have been mining coal for years and generations.”

  Oil drilling emits pollution, disrupts wildlife, and negatively affects nearby communities with emissions. Many are looking into limiting or ending oil drilling in all of America due to its non reliability in the future.

   America already has systems reliant on fossil fuels set up, but we don’t have infinite oil,” said Odio.

   In addition to this argument, many believe that there are other initiatives that can be done instead to generate more energy for the United States. 

   “There isn’t just one way to grow the economy or generate energy,” said Odio. “We have the technology that makes sustainable energy sources accessible and usable. We don’t have another planet.”