Extracting More Oil from Alaska Imperils the Environment

With the recent approval of further oil extraction in Alaska, climate activists are concerned with how the Willow Project will further damage Earth’s already fragile environment.


The willow project’s pipelines cutting across Alaska’s picturesque landscape. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Adviser’s Note: The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this opinion article belong solely to the author and do not reflect the view of The Colt Chronicle Staff, Kinnelon High School, or its students and staff members.

Earth is already heating up, and animals are dying faster than ever. However, when this project starts, the speed of climate change and the economy will skyrocket.

The Willow Project takes place on the plain of Alaska and includes constructing several drilling sites, pipelines, and facilities to extract oil from the resource. The project’s oil output is anticipated to reach a high of about 160,000 barrels per day. According to Willow Project: CNN Politics, the Trump administration granted permission for the project in late 2020, and the Biden administration later approved it on Mar. 13. ConocoPhillips, an organization that has been drilling for oil in Alaska for many years, is in charge of the project.

The project has faced opposition from environmental groups and indigenous tribes who worry it could seriously harm the ecology and local wildlife. Social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and especially TikTok have been used to promote the #stopthewillowproject campaign. The hashtag has garnered over 300 million views on TikTok alone. Due to the significant awareness that TikTok has raised about the project, people have even started a petition on  Change.org. Sonny Ahk created the most popular petition, directed towards President Biden and ConocoPhillips, which has gained over 5 million signatures. According to What is the Willow project?-The Washington Post, even though many individuals, including a leader in the oil sector, said that this project would benefit the economy, young people and activists have banded together online to fight it. 

The start of the project also claims to cause irreversible environmental damage. According to What Is Climate Change? | United Nations, climate change is the long-term alteration of temperature and weather patterns. Due to countless human activities, fossil fuels are the primary driver of climate change. Coal, oil, and gas are examples of fossil fuels. They release enormous amounts of CO2, commonly called greenhouse gases, into the atmosphere. The gas absorbs heat, causing global warming. Glaciers are melting due to global warming, which causes sea levels to rise.

The project would release over 9.2 million tons of carbon gasses in only one year. Jeremy Lieb, a senior attorney with the environmental legal firm Earthjustice told CNN that a significant climate hazard conflicts with the administration’s pledges to address the climate problem. For example, due to how quickly glaciers are melting, the project would destroy the Arctic habitats of native animals. Additionally, several people felt betrayed since Biden promised to cut carbon emissions by more than 50% in his first few months in office but failed to do so by approving the Willow Project.

The most significant method scientists have found to slow climate change is consuming fewer fossil fuels. However, due to this project, the risk of temperature increases, variations in weather patterns, extreme weather occurrences, the extinction of animals, and many other effects would go higher. This project can be stopped in several ways. According to What can you do to stop the controversial Willow Project? – ASA USA’s writing a letter to the White House, contacting advocacy groups, contacting local legislators, researching the project and its possible effects, and using social media are all effective ways to voice concerns. Even though there is no guarantee that these methods will stop the project, they will definitely raise awareness and educate people.