Opinion | Willow Project promises opportunities
Editorial: As featured in volume 111, issue 10 of The Collegian.
Since early February, climate activists have taken to social media in an effort to encourage the Biden administration to halt the Willow Project: an oil-drilling venture in Alaska that was initially approved by the Trump administration in 2020. On March 13, however, the White House gave ConocoPhillips the green light to begin construction on an area planned to hold 600 million barrels of oil.
By doing so, the president rightfully upheld his predecessor’s approval. As Ella Nilsen writes in a March 14 story about the project for CNN, “All three lawmakers in Alaska’s bipartisan congressional delegation met with President Joe Biden and his senior advisers on March 3, urging the president and his administration to approve the project.”
Here are the two main reasons why they did.
Revenue for services
It’s widely known that the state of Texas has one of the largest economies in not just the United States, but the entire world. The reason for this? The production of oil. Now, Alaska Native groups on the North Slope are looking to capitalize on that same industry with an opportunity that the state of Alaska says will generate $8 billion in federal, state, and local revenue.
These funds, as Nilsen writes, will assist in “much-needed” funding of services such as education and health care in the area. “[The Willow Project] presents an opportunity to continue that investment in the communities,” Nagruk Harcharek, Voice of the Arctic Iñupiat president, said to CNN. “Without that money and revenue stream, we’re reliant on the state and the feds.”
Reliance on ourselves
For far too long, the United States has been far too dependent on other countries – especially those with less-than-ideal human rights track records such as Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and other major producers – and now holds an opportunity to take a step in the direction of becoming energy independent. It’s an opportunity not even President Biden, who vowed in his 2020 campaign to end all new drilling operations on federal land, could turn down.
While Alaska estimates the project to emit 9.2 million metric tons of carbon pollution per year (the same as two million gas-powered cars), the United States has long taken steps to regulate emissions across all industries, especially when compared to fellow major emitters such as China, India, and others that comprise a sizeable portion of the world’s population. In the end, the benefits of self-producing energy while capitalizing on the revenue it generates for other aspects of American life far outweigh any environmental concerns.
In today’s political climate, it’s rare to find instances in which an administration from the opposite party recognizes a chance for progress authorized by the previous from the other side of the aisle. But in this case, there’s really no question that Americans will reap the tangible benefits of this moment in the country’s economic history.