OP-ED: What Is the Willow Project and How Does It Affect Us?


“Must Drill The Oil. Must Drill The Oil….” by cogdogblog is marked with CC0 1.0.

Originally proposed in 2020, the Willow Project was a large-scale oil drilling venture centered in the National Petroleum Reserve on Alaska’s North Slope, a region owned by the US federal government. It was approved on March 13th, 2023, and is already facing intense opposition from environmental groups for the immense amount of oil and emissions this project will release.

With the estimated 600 million barrels of oil contained in this area, there is already a predicted 287 million tons of carbon emissions that will be released along with many other greenhouse gasses over the project’s 30-year lifespan. And with the US’s pledge to slash greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 and transition the United States to clean energy, proposals like the Willow Project are the opposite of a solution to an already worsening problem.

For the past 50 years, the Arctic has warmed at over double the global rate because of climate change. The rising temperatures that would continually come from this drilling will cause an even greater thaw in the permafrost of this area. This would release captured methane and carbon dioxide, which evidently hurts the environment. 

The drilling process would create vast amounts of soot to cover the snow that is primarily making up the environment in Alaska. This black soot would absorb the sunlight, versus the previous state of white snow that reflects the sunlight, causing irreversible and detrimental effects for those in the surrounding area, especially the already suffering animals. The noise and pollution that this project coincides with will disrupt ecosystems that Alaskans have relied on for several hundred years. 

Similarly, ancient viruses and bacteria have been trapped in this permafrost, so the sped up melting process will prove to have negative effects on the human and wildlife populations. This is a direct threat to the human way of life and immediate action must be taken to stop it from happening. 

Many have already jumped onto this process, as Earth Justice filed a lawsuit on March 15th to stop the Willow Project on behalf of many companies that consider themselves “protectors of natural resources” or “defenders of wildlife.”  Their lawsuit asked the court to halt the project because the Biden Administration—upon approval—failed to consider alternatives that could produce less carbon dioxide and harmful greenhouse gasses. 

To help slow or even stop this project entirely, spread the word to your peers. Anything can help. There are petitions worth signing, protests worth attending, and causes worth fighting for. Our Earth is at a critical state of emergency, whether our politicians acknowledge it or not. We the people must take action and fight for those without voices. Stopping the Willow Project will stop the extermination of many arctic animals and their habitats, as well as the eventual extermination of the human species quite frankly. There is only one planet suitable for our needs; therefore, we must protect it.