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The Willow Project threatens Biden’s climate missions

By Isaac Ang Apr. 5, 2023

President Joe Biden has repeatedly emphasized that climate change cannot be ignored any longer. Yet, his administration’s approval of the Willow Project—a plan that entails drilling massive amounts of oil in Alaska’s North Slope—contradicts his previous statements.

Kailey Hu Art

Per the Alaska Business Magazine, the Willow Project is predicted to produce 180,000 barrels of oil daily—about 1.5% of total U.S. production—as well as 2,500 jobs for local Alaskans in Nuiqsut. Generating between $8 and $17 billion of government revenue, the project could boost the Alaskan economy and help secure U.S. energy independence. Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Rep. Mary Peltola have endorsed the project, purportedly advocating on behalf of local Alaskan natives, many of whom support the project due to its economic benefits.

Despite the economic revitalization the Willow Project promises, environmental groups have voiced fierce opposition against it. #StopWillow has swept across social media, with TikTok videos featuring the project surpassing 50 million views, according to CNN. Three-quarters of Nuiqsut residents rely on wildlife for sustenance, yet oil development has gradually driven the animals away. Consequently, several local indigenous groups have sent petitions to the White House.

Kailey Hu Art

According to the Washington Post, the Biden administration conducted an environmental review last year concluding that the project would release 9.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, the equivalent of gas exhaust from almost two million cars. Additionally, clearing ground for oil development would destroy key habitats for migrating birds and caribou.

“The Willow Project intends to generate energy and jobs, but those can also be produced through more eco-friendly actions such as investing in nuclear energy,” Senior Siddh Saxena said.

The Willow Project was originally approved for five drilling pads under Trump’s review in 2020. Although one of Biden’s key campaign goals was to halt oil drilling on U.S. territory and cut U.S. emissions in half by 2030, ConocoPhillips had a strong legal basis to defend the project’s continuation. Seeking to find a middle ground, Biden offered to reduce the number of drilling pads from five to two, which would shrink total oil output by 30%. When ConocoPhillips deemed that economically unviable, the surmounting legal constraints compelled Biden to approve the project with three drilling pads, but CNN reports that Biden also protected about 16 million acres in the National Petroleum Reserve from future drilling, which are key habitats for many animals. Still, environmental legal groups such as Earthjustice plan to challenge the project in court.

“Although I had high hopes that Biden would reject the Willow Project, I was not surprised that he ultimately approved it. Leaders must carefully listen to arguments from both sides, and as long as they do—which I believe Biden did—I will ultimately trust their judgment,” Freshman Bella Corie said.

Kailey Hu Art

Weighing the considerations of multiple interests, Biden’s approval of the Willow Project has drawn criticism from his own party but benefited the floundering Alaskan residents.


About the Contributors

Isaac Ang

investigative report and last word page editor

Isaac Ang is a senior at Leland High School and is the Investigative Report and Last Word Page Editor. During his free time, Isaac enjoys rock climbing, coding, and reading/watching Lord of the Rings.

Kailey Hu

art director

Kailey Hu is a senior at Leland High school and is one of the Art Directors for The Charger Account. During her free time, she likes to spend her time drawing, going on walks, sewing, reading and crafting.

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