Quantifying the Willow Project
Hey internet folks! There's been a lot of media attention and outrage regarding the Willow Project in recent weeks and we wanted to understand both the scope of the initiation and the impacts of the project. We will address this project in the following areas: first, what is the Willow Project; second, how does the Willow Project affect local communities; third, how does the Willow Project affect the world at large; and finally, what is the scope and context of the Willow Project and how will it affect future climate policy?
1) What is the Willow Project? And What Has Been Approved by Biden?
The Willow Project is an oil rig in Alaska that has partially (note, it has been approved but only 3 out of 5 oil pads) been approved by President Biden. President Biden has committed to three oil pads spanning 96,000 acres on federal lands.
2) How does the Willow Project affect local communities?
Well, Alaska is in a very fragile climate, and the Willow Project certainly doesn't help! 'The stakes are too high for us to let our guard down' (Earthjustice 2023). ConocoPhillips plans to 'fix' the issue of oil drilling by artificially cooling the melting permafrost. There's no doubt that this project will cause needless harm to local peoples and ecosystems. Whilst the economic stability generated from the project is a benefit to indigenous communities, it will also physically harm future generations of humans living near the project.
3) How does the Willow Project affect the world at large?
The Willow Project will reportedly emit 277 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, according to some figures (Gordon 2023 for CEIP). But what does that mean? The US EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) reports that in 2021, the US emitted 6,347.7 million metric tons of CO2! But this figure is likely an underestimate, as such figures are ambiguous in nature. So the Willow Project would be an additional 0.15% of CO2 emissions annually, which is still a lot. Let's compare the Willow Project to the annual carbon budget for 1.5 degrees warming above preindustrial levels. Just to be clear, we are already at 1.1 degrees and showing no signs of slowing down. But that's besides the point. Okay, so the annual carbon budget for 1.5 degrees is 380 billion tons of CO2 and the willow project will produce 9.2 million tons annually (Washington Post 2023). The willow project is 0.002421052 percent of the annual carbon budget. So no, because the Willow Project has been approved, we're not all automatically going to die! But we should be concerned over our carbon footprint.
4) What is the scope and context of the Willow Project and how will it affect future climate policy?
Was this a good move for Biden? Well, it depends. Whilst one of Biden's campaign promises (to end new oil drilling projects) has been broken, this policy has bipartisan support for the future of America's energy stability, and perhaps could be supported with energy portfolio diversification in the forms of renewable energy. But that's a long- shot.
Pages S723-S726 from the Congressional Record Online and the Government Publishing Office:
- 'inflection point for our State's future'
- resolution passed last week asking Biden to support the Willow Project
- 'unwanted attention' on Alaska
- people are loosing jobs due to shutdown of fossil fuel plants
- 'if the Biden administration-- the President-- approves Willow tonight, ConocoPhillips will start moving people to build it tomorrow.'
- 'this project has the highest environmental standards of any major energy project in the world, by far'- What does this mean?
- 'Emissions from this project, according to President Biden's own environmental impact statement, 0.15 percent'
ConocoPhillips Willow Project File/Resource:
Source notes: - announced in 2017
- approved in 2023
- 180,000 barrels of oil daily at peak
- pros: economic growth and energy security
- create 2,500 construction jobs
- 300 permanent jobs
- approx. 600 million barrels of oil in total
- initially five pads of oil
- creates economic stability for local indigenous groups
- consent from indigenous groups given to Biden
- each oil pad is 32,000 acres
- total project is 96,000 acres of land
- goal of administration to cut pollution in half by 2030
Senate.gov Delegation Letter
- will create $17 billion in revenues
Earthjustice is suing Biden over the Willow Project: