President Biden Approves Controversial Oil Drilling Project



Drawing of Polar Bear Next to Can of Oil

On March 13th the willow project was approved by the Biden administration. Allowing mass oil drilling to take place on Alaska’s North slope. The project site holds up to 600 million barrels of oil, and they plan to work around 200 miles in the Arctic circle for the next 30 years. 

Alaskan lawmakers and the oil industry had pushed Biden to approve the project due to its potential to create jobs and energy production. Ryan Lance, ConocoPhillips chairman and chief executive officer said that “this was the right decision for Alaska and our nation.” ConocoPhillips estimated that this project could create more than 2,500 construction jobs and about 300 more long-term jobs. 

NBC news said that the Biden administration had little to no choice with the project due to the prospect of legal action and costly fines. The administration assumed that the courts would not allow Biden to say no to the project, because ConocoPhillips has long term leases on the land in the petroleum reserve and could have demanded fines from the government.   

We can not expect young
people to believe
in government..

The Interior Department announced that ConocoPhillips could renounce rights to about 68,000 acres of its existing leases, most of which are near the Teshekpuk Lake Special Area, a large habitat of caribou and other wildlife. The administration said it would approve permits for up to three drilling sites and deny two others; one of which would be in the TeshekPuk Lake. They also said they were considering additional protections for more than 13 million acres within the reserve for historic and natural value. 

On Sunday, March 13, it was announced that about 2.8 million acres of the Beaufort Sea in the Arctic Ocean are indefinitely off limits for future oil and gas leasing. 

Senator Ed Markey, D-Mass, a champion of efforts to fight climate change, said that the “approval of the Willow Project is an environmental injustice,” he said that “the decision to go through with one of the largest oil development projects in decades sends the wrong message to our international partners.”  The Willow decision was called a “profound break of trust” with the environmentalists movement, and it puts all of Biden’s promises into uncertainty. People say that Biden broke the promise he made during his 2020 presidential campaign. Biden had claimed he would end new oil and gas drilling on public lands and waters. 

It’s thought that the Sierra Club is looking at its legal options and is “very likely” to sue the Biden administration to try to stop the project. It is believed that burning the oil could release nearly 280 million metric tons of carbon emissions into the atmosphere annually. That would translate to 9.2 million metric tons of carbon pollution. 

Kristen Monsell, senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity said that “it’s insulting” that Biden believes that protecting one area of the Arctic circle will change their minds about the Willow Project. “Protecting one area of the Arctic so you can destroy another doesn’t make sense,” she said.

Senior vice president of policy at the American Petroleum Institute, a trade organization, Frank Macchiarola said that in the ongoing energy crisis, “the Biden administration should be focused on strengthening US energy security and standing with the working families of Alaska by supporting the responsible development of federal lands and waters.” He also mentioned that they should not be “acting to restrict it.” 

Many people everywhere in the United States were signing petitions to stop the drilling. At least 1 million people tried to get Biden to stop the approval and not go through with the project by using online campaigns, protests, and meetings with federal officials. Thousands of people posted on social media platforms, such as TikTok, where hashtags were trending and many people were talking about why it was wrong. Hashtags like #StopWillow and #StopTheWillowProject are thought to be the first climate related hashtag made into a “trending issue platform.” 

It’s suspected that social media will play a large role in environmental activism and other controversial topics, but that may be “dangerous” because people are more than likely uneducated, said Van Susteren. He said, “We can not expect young people to believe in government,” mentioning that the Willow Project decision affects the younger generations the most. Susteren said a “stressed” society is not likely to make the greatest decisions and he believes that young people are worried for their lives and future.