#StopWillow: A Fight for Climate Justice

By: Nicole Chedraoui 

In the fall of the last Presidential Campaign era, circa 2020, Joe Biden said, “No more drilling on federal lands, period. Period, period, period.”

On Monday, March 13th of 2023, Joe Biden approved the Willow Project: an 8 billion dollar plan to extract 600 million barrels of oil from federally-owned land in Alaska. 

I’m mad. 

And heartbroken. 

And horrified. 

Let’s talk about it. 

The Basics 

I think it’s safe to say the growing distance between Biden’s campaign pledge versus his willingness to follow through can be attributed to our global energy crisis, an insane amount of pressure from Alaskan lawmakers (not excluding the state’s LONE democratic house member), a looming election year, and an extremely complex legal landscape that somewhat left Biden’s hands tied. 

However, I’m not here to talk about why this happened or try to make excuses for anybody. I want to talk about the facts. 

Fact 1: The Willow Project is a decades long oil-drilling venture in the National Petroleum Reserve (owned by the federal government). The area in which the drilling project is planned holds up to 600 million barrels of oil. 

Fact 2: By the estimates of the administration themselves, this project would generate enough oil to release 9.2 MILLION METRIC TONS of planet-heating carbon pollution A YEAR. (That is the equivalent of adding 2 million gas guzzling cars to the road). 

Fact 3: This project will produce over 278 million tons of greenhouse gasses over 30 years, doing irreversible damage to our environment for the foreseeable future. 

You know what Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski had to say about that?

 “We finally did it, Willow is finally reapproved, and we can almost literally feel Alaska’s future brightening because of it,” Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said in a statement, adding that Alaska is “now on the cusp of creating thousands of new jobs, generating billions of dollars in new revenues” and “improving quality of life on the North Slope and across our state.”

“A BrightenedFuture” (this section is dedicated to you Lisa! xoxo)

 I have a few major (astronomical) qualms with your vision of a “bright future”, Lisa.

With the damage you’re ensuing in pursuit of this project, who says Alaska even has a future AT ALL?

It begs the question, how can you worry about creating jobs and raking in 17 million dollars in revenue when, in doing so, you’re causing irreparable damage to our environment, future, planet, ecosystems, and various indigenous groups? 

Lisa believes that releasing 9.2 million metric tons of carbon pollution annually is the right answer to help boost the Alaskan economy. 

However, for any individual who passed 8th grade environmental science, the passing of Willow is undoubtedly a national landmark in American history: the day a death sentence was administered to a slowly dying national preserve. The Arctic has ALREADY been warming four times faster than the rest of the world. When taking this into consideration, along with the fact that Willow would be built on permafrost (which thaws already vulnerable landscapes and damages local ecosystems), Willow is nothing less than an environmental catastrophe. Given the nickname “the carbon bomb,” Willow is simply just that, a legally weaponized means of destruction to the entirety of our planet as we know it. 

Fossil Fuels = Bad. Let’s Breakdown The 1.5 Tipping Point 

Just a WEEK after the Willow Project’s approval, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a new report revealing shocking news about the American government’s past promises, and more recently, their inability to follow through with said promises. As a member of the United Nations, one of the past claims our nation declared involved a national pledge. The pledge basically stated that we, as Americans, agree to keep global average temperatures from rising above 1.5 degrees celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) a year, and in doing so, stay within our limit to help restore global environmental justice moving forward. To say the least, the burning of fossil fuels has entirely knocked us off track, and Willow is the most significant tipping point we’ve seen to date. 

If you’ve made it thus far in the article and perhaps aren’t familiar with the term “fossil fuels” and how/why they negatively impact our planet, let me catch you up to speed.

What happens if we keep burning fossil fuels? 

After exceeding our 1.5 tipping point, science predicts a cascade of devastation in its wake.

Rising sea levels like we’ve never seen before, entire landforms sinking under surge. 

Heat waves that become scorching. 



Millions of deaths before the end of this century. 

¾ of all carbon emissions are attributed to fossil fuels. 

The Willow Project produces 9.2 million metric tons of fossil fuels. 

What Goes Into Developing Willow? 

Before any of the toxic drilling can begin, Willow’s development requires the building and installation of hundreds of miles of roads, pipelines, and additional infrastructure that would bring harm to the NPR-A’s current immaculately-untouched ecosystem. 

Conservationists estimate the development on its own would result in the loss of 532 acres of wetlands, 619 acres of habitat disturbances for polar bears, and more than 17,000 acres of such disturbances for native birds. 

Here’s To Not Losing Progress

The point of this article was not to cause you a panic attack (believe it or not), but sometimes, in cases such as these, there’s no way to not come off as alarmist. We are in a climate crisis, and nothing about that is unalarming. However, I want to make it clear before this article closes, that this is not a bash towards the Biden administration. In fact, I think it may be important to note that Biden has shown impressive leadership in his efforts to cut climate pollution in half by 2030, especially considering he passed the single most efficient and influential environmental legislation our nation has seen in eons: the Inflation Reduction Act. This act invested nearly 370 BILLION dollars into clean energy and greenhouse gas reduction, which is absolutely no small feat. 

What I’m here to say is, essentially, don’t lose hope. We found ourselves on the right path even after being backed into a devastating corner by conservative legislation, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing left to do.  

A lawsuit has been filed, petitions are being signed, and you can use your voice. 

If you’re interested in taking a couple minutes out of your day to support the cause, visit this link down below to take action and directly tell the Biden Administration that Willow has NO place in our clean energy future. 

NRDC Petition for Change 

Our planet is worth more. 

Our home is worth more. 

There is no Planet B. 


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