‘Carbon bomb’: What is the Willow project and why has Joe Biden approved it?
The United States has approved a major oil-drilling project on Alaska’s petroleum-rich North Slope – a move that environmentalists have slammed as a “betrayal.”
The ConocoPhillips Alaska’s Willow project will produce an estimated 160,000 barrels of oil per day over the next 30 years.
Burning this oil will produce 260 million tons of carbon dioxide, equal to the annual output of 66 American coal plants.
The Biden administration’s decision to approve the project comes a day after it had said it would bar or limit drilling in some other areas of Alaska and the Arctic Ocean.
Why has Joe Biden approved the Willow project?
The approval of the project by the Bureau of Land Management will allow three drill sites including up to 199 total wells.
US Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland described Willow as “a difficult and complex issue that was inherited” from earlier administrations. And she added that officials “had limited decision space” to block the project because ConocoPhillips has held leases in the area for decades.
What do climate activists think of the Willow project?
Climate activists were outraged that Biden approved the project, which they say puts his climate legacy at risk. Allowing the drilling plan to go forward marks a major breach of Biden’s campaign promise to stop new oil drilling on federal lands, they argued.
Greenpeace USA described the project as a “betrayal” and a “climate catastrophe.”
The project could produce up to 180,000 barrels of oil a day, according to the company — about 1.5 per cent of total US oil production.
Using the oil from Willow would produce the equivalent of more than 263 million tons of greenhouse gases over the project’s 30-year life, roughly the size of emissions from 1.7 million passenger cars over the same time period.
Monday’s announcement is not likely to be the last word, with litigation expected from environmental groups.
A petition against the project has gained more than 3 million signatures.
The Arctic is already warming faster than anywhere else on the planet, and the Willow Project would be a carbon bomb.
Who supports the Willow project?
However, the project enjoys widespread political support in the state.
Alaska’s bipartisan congressional delegation met with Biden and his advisers in early March to plead their case for the project, and Alaska Native state lawmakers recently met with Haaland to urge support.
Supporters have called the project balanced and say communities would benefit from taxes generated by Willow to invest in infrastructure and provide public services.
According to ConocoPhillips, the project could create up to 2,500 jobs during construction and 300 long-term jobs, and generate billions of dollars in royalties and tax revenues for the federal, state and local governments.
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