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The Willow Project: Is Oil Worth the Carbon Bomb?

Updated: Mar 15

The Willow Project, approved on March 11, 2023, is a new project that supports oil drilling in Alaska and has the potential to extract over 600 million barrels of oil in total. Although it faced significant backlash from environmentalists when announced, the US decided to go through with it regardless of the downsides.


While helping drive oil self-reliance, the federal government estimates that “the project would generate enough oil to release 9.2 million metric tons of planet-warming carbon pollution a year – equivalent to adding 2 million gas-powered cars to the roads.” If the U.S. wants to be viewed as one of the leaders in the fields of sustainability and environmental protection, I believe it should not go through with this project.


Throughout the past century, our country has prioritized short-term economic gains at the expense of the environment. From forestry and logging to agricultural practices, mining and drilling, our country has prioritized resource production over environmental concerns. However, we have failed to account for the adverse impact that environmental damage causes.


In this case, the drilling will cause major Carbon Dioxide (CO2)emissions. Increased CO2 emissions contribute greatly to the problem of climate change because it traps heat in our atmosphere, causing rising surface temperatures. Higher surface temperatures cause the melting of ice sheets, which increases sea levels. They also cause more extreme weather, and natural disasters -- all of which are under the umbrella of climate change.


Climate change has and will continue to have a huge impact on the economy. For example, according to a report by the National Academy of Sciences, “For every degree Celsius the global thermostat rises, there will be a 5 to 15 percent decrease in overall crop production.” Furthermore, Morgan Stanley estimates that between 2016-2018 North America lost over $415 billion due to natural disasters, predominantly wildfires and hurricanes.


While all of this seems terrible, there is a reason why the government is supporting this environmentally damaging project. The Willow project is estimated to produce 180,000 barrels of oil a day, significantly decreasing our reliance on foreign countries for oil. The project is also expected to contribute $8 billion -17 billion to the federal government, in terms of revenue. Furthermore the project "has the potential to create over 2,500 construction jobs and approximately 300 long-term jobs” [ConocoPhillips]. Moreover, a lot of the workers will be from Alaska, an area that doesn’t always have plentiful employment opportunities, so the project will provide job security for the Alaskan people and their economy.


I hope people understand that while the Willow project offers some advantages,  it will create irreversible environmental and economic damage. If the drilling has to be done, a full assessment of the environmental and long-term economic damage must be conducted. This way, ConocoPhillips and the federal government can help restore the damage to the planet from the project.


The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author.


Sources


Nilsen, Ella. “Willow Project, Explained: What to Know about the Alaska Oil-Drilling Venture | CNN Politics.” CNN, CNN, 14 Mar. 2023, https://www.cnn.com/2023/03/14/politics/willow-project-oil-alaska-explained-climate/index.html.


“How Climate Change Impacts the Economy.” State of the Planet, https://www.facebook.com/earthinstitute, 20 June 2019, https://news.climate.columbia.edu/2019/06/20/climate-change-economy-impacts/.


“How Can Climate Change Affect Natural Disasters? | U.S. Geological Survey.” USGS.Gov | Science for a Changing World, https://www.usgs.gov/faqs/how-can-climate-change-affect-natural-disasters#:~:text=With%20increasing%20global%20surface%20temperatures,more%20powerful%20storms%20to%20develop. Accessed 19 Apr. 2023.



“Weighing The Pros And Cons Of The Willow Project In Alaska - NNN NEWS Today April 15, 2023.” NNN, NNN, 1 Mar. 2023, https://nnn.ng/weighing-the-pros-cons-of-the-willow-project-in-alaska/.

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