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Informing the Lincoln High community since 1895

The Advocate

Informing the Lincoln High community since 1895

The Advocate

OPINION: The Willow Project is Biden’s Worst Climate Decision to Date

Photo by Paul Morigi
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Joe Biden, the president who campaigned on pledges to not approve more oil drilling on federal land, has just approved more oil drilling on federal land in a proposal by ConocoPhillips called the Willow Project. This was in the face of Biden, who according to the EPA, made “$250 million available to develop innovative strategies to cut climate pollution and build clean energy economies” just 12 days earlier.

This $8 billion plan approves 600 million barrels of oil to be drilled out of Alaska and has an expected carbon footprint of 280 million metric tons. That figure is hard for the human mind to grasp, so I did the math. 280 million metric tons of carbon dioxide would equate to the weight of 1,978,504.96 statue of liberty’s. Another way of putting it into perspective is via its length. A single metric ton of carbon dioxide is roughly 10.07 meters tall. That means that there is enough carbon dioxide to stretch 2.18 earths long with the single stroke of a pen. This is only the first half of why the plan has been so controversial, however. 

Native Americans in Alaska, specifically the Nuiqsut, are at a major risk of losing a majority of their food source and their home because of this plan. They only live 36 miles away from the planned drilling spot in the Willow Project. The mayor of the town has said that “Our concerns are real. It’s about our way of life, the life, health, and safety of our village.” The project is also going to release something called “black carbon” which is known to have many toxic effects on people’s physical health. With the city being so close to the proposed drilling site, this will actively cause harm to the citizens of the town.

So why did Biden do it? According to the New York Times, “refusing a permit would trigger a lawsuit that could cost the government as much as $5 billion”. ConocoPhillips have had the leases for the land for more than twenty years, and the Trump administration cleared them to move forward at the end of his presidency. However, John Leshy, the Interior Department’s Solicitor for Bill Clinton, has said that “…I would not say their [the Biden Administration’s] hands were tied, but their options were definitely limited by the lease rights.” This means that even though the lease rights were valid; there were other ways of resolving the problem without creating a 280 million metric ton carbon footprint.

Wildlife is also going to be affected by this decision. While it is largely debated how large this effect will be with the melting of the poles, the pounding for oil alone will drive animals away and create a hole in the Nuiqsut town’s local economy. Action Network, a charity that was fighting against the signing of the Willow Project, says “…The noise, traffic, and pollution the project brings will disrupt ecosystems that Indigenous Alaskans have relied on for millennia. The project threatens the already vulnerable caribou population– a vital resource many native communities rely on.” 

The Willow Project was a horrible decision that goes against President Biden’s word, contributes more to global warming more than any other oil drilling in recent times, and actively harms the native Alaskan communities. It’s a short sighted decision that prioritizes economic gain over the environmental impact that this project will have.

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