Weighing the Willow Project


Maroon Staff

“I personally hope that the passion and anger surrounding stopping [the] Willow [Project] will manifest itself in other climate actions,” Ryan conveyed.

Justin Zhang

In the past few weeks, controversy has stirred around the “Willow Project,” an oil drilling initiative in Alaska’s North Slope region led by multinational oil and gas company ConocoPhillips.

Proponents of The Willow project argue that it has three main benefits: jobs created, resources provided, and the economy boosted. It is projected to make 8.7 billion dollars in royalties and tax revenue, create 2800 total jobs, and provide 180,000 barrels of oil daily. However, the effect on the environment surrounding the site and the world’s entire climate make the project a significant concern for nature conservationists and people around the world. 

The change in the Alaskan arctic surrounding the Willow Project will take the biggest hit. “The Arctic is extremely important to the Earth’s climate as a whole. It is one of the largest carbon sinks on the entire planet. It is a vital habitat for whales, caribou, and, of course, polar bears. The arctic is already heating up four times as fast compared to the rest of the planet, and Willow would increase this,” Audrey Ryan ’24 said, an organizer of an NYC climate change strike attended by 5000 students. 

In addition to contributing to climate change, the Willow project also harms Alaskan residents. “Many indigenous tribes depend on a clean unpolluted water/ecosystem to sustain daily life. Willow would make many water sources undrinkable and unbalance surrounding ecosystems,” Ryan expressed. 

The resulting impact will produce up to 287 million metric tons of CO2 over the next 30 years, resulting in global catastrophes such as coral bleaching, severe storms, and increased flooding. 

Environmental activists have been extremely outspoken and are furious about the continuation of the Willow project, and Ryan is no exception. “The science has been clear for over 50 years, yet people keep ignoring the problem. It is very disheartening to see how a lot of our work towards a cleaner future gets pushed to the side and ignored,” Ryan remarked.

Despite environmental concerns, the Biden Administration has still decided to authorize the Willow Project. This decision is surprising and infuriating as Biden is supposed to be a climate-friendly leader. “The misconception that [Biden] is a climate leader is because Trump had no climate plan and Biden does have a climate plan[…] so far he has taken no action, and in fact, the Willow Project goes directly against his promises,” Ryan expressed.

It will not be easy to stop climate change, but activists like Ryan are still fighting. “I personally hope that the passion and anger surrounding stopping [the] Willow [Project] will manifest itself in other climate actions,” Ryan conveyed. Signing petitions and raising awareness can aid in the fight against climate change. But, intimately, we only have one Earth and one chance to do the right thing, so it is up to us to decide what is right.