Last week, the Biden administration approved the Willow Project, a large-scale oil development in Alaska near the Arctic Ocean. This project casts significant doubt on Biden’s so-called campaign to mitigate the effects of climate change, as it will extend the country’s reliance on fossil fuels further into the future instead of opting for seeking out renewable alternatives to energy.
Alaska and the Arctic Circle may seem very far away, and the oil development may not seem very relevant to our lives here in Berkeley. However, the Willow Project will be wildly detrimental to environments around the world through its implications to climate change, environmental degradation and the economy.
Willow is an oil reserve located in the largest swath of public lands in the country, the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. The protections previously allotted to this area establish rules against extraction practices and defend the habitats and migration patterns of countless species that are key to Arctic ecosystems.
The Willow Project is controlled by ConocoPhillips and will include 199 wells spread across three drilling sites. It’s set to produce about 576 million barrels of oil over the next 30 years, which goes hand in hand with 239 million metric tons of carbon dioxide as well as the destruction of this valuable environment throughout the duration of the three decade project.
The Biden administration previously promised to end new oil developments on federal land, which the Willow Project blatantly disregards. Additionally, this approval undermines Biden’s campaign platform assurances of a societal transition to renewable energy. Instead, he has lengthened the lifespan of fossil fuels as the driver of the economy. The weak defenses used to justify the development include the claim that oil production in other areas would produce just as many emissions as the Willow Project will now account.
Deflecting blame and shifting emission sources is not a justification or a solution to the effects that carbon dioxide has on the atmosphere. Instead of arguing for so-called “clean” fossil fuels, the government should be focusing resources on making the systemic switch to renewable sources. As long as the United States is reliant on our current economic structures, the necessary environmental protection will come through intentional transitions to choices that consider the climate and not ones that shift accountability to other sources.
The Willow Project is another case in a long string of examples where politicians and people in power preach environmentalism only to disregard these pledges in favor of greasing the wheels of the capitalist systems that fuel the economy. Such large-scale approval, coming from the highest power in the country, is a magnified case of what occurs in climate activism on a frequent basis.
For these types of developments to cease, and for there to be tangible preservation of the livability of the Earth in the current day and the future, we must shake loose from the hold that capitalism has on America. This economic model isn’t a cause worth dying for. We must find new pathways towards sustainability and not ones that prolong our reliance on fuels that will destroy our homes and livelihoods.
You should be angry about the approval of the Willow Project. In fact, I insist that you be angry. Biden’s approval of the project isn’t a rare occurrence. It has been happening for years on all levels of authority, and it must be stopped. Don’t opt for complacency as the Arctic and the effects of oil drilling aren’t as far away as you want to believe. You will feel the catastrophic effects of the projects; you will be affected by the extension of the United States’ reliance on fossil fuels.
Understanding the implications of the Willow Project is an important first step to acknowledging the incredibly detrimental effects the development will have on the entire country. I encourage you to learn more about the decision and get involved in every way that you can in fighting against the structures that continue to uphold a system that is completely reliant on the destruction of our very lives.