The signing of the Willow Project and what it means for our world

Meredith Nemerov, staff writer

The Willow Project is a drilling project in Alaska’s North Slope Petroleum Reserve that was first approved in 2020 by the Trump administration and is expected to last 30 years. This drilling operation will be carried out by the increasingly infamous oil refinery, ConocoPhillips. It is expected to transport 180,000 barrels of oil each day. The Willow Project will have a disastrous impact on the temperature and atmosphere of Alaska, despite claims that it will benefit Alaskans economically by creating new jobs, a new source of money, and possibly lowering tax obligations.

Although drilling for oil has been a common method of extraction for years, making holes in the Earth’s surface and breaking through the oil zone underground releases dangerous chemicals into the atmosphere, including carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. As a result of the “greenhouse effect,” the Willow Project would become an immense contributor to global warming. 30 years of the project’s life will release the same amount of greenhouse gasses as the emission from 1.7 million passenger cars over the same period. This completely contradicts President Biden’s pledges to cut carbon emissions and move to clean energy.

Both the native communities and Arctic wildlife would experience noise and pollution. Rosemary Ahtuangaruak, the mayor of Nuiqsut, and two other city and tribe officials told CNN  that their community will be most affected by Willow’s effects on the environment and public health because they “are at ground zero for the industrialization of the Arctic.” Other towns in Alaska claim that the Willow Project will bring economic benefits, but these communities are much more industrialized than Nuiqsut and thus will not undergo the same extreme environmental damages.

Petitions were signed across the country to assess public opinion and advocate for change. The most popular petition, called Stop the Willow Project, has well over 4.5 million signatures and counting. Even though it has faced intense opposition from the public, the Willow Project has been put into action by the Biden Administration, but this is not the end of the fight. With strong enough numbers and strength the project can still be overturned. It is up to future generations to put a stop to environmentally damaging acts such as the Willow Project before it is too late.

This piece was originally published in Zephyrus’ print edition on April 20.