President Biden's Willow Project Approval: A Step Backwards for Climate Progress
by Aiste Orentas
President Biden gave approval for ConocoPhillips to extract 600 million barrels of oil from Federal lands in Alaska, which caused both feelings of betrayal and inevitability. Despite Biden's promise to end drilling on federal lands during his campaign, the United States ongoing loyalty to the oil industry continues to leak through – causing further damage to the climate. The transition to green energy is happening quickly, but it solely cannot reduce carbon emissions and global warming affects at the rate we need it to be. In the current energy crisis, the Biden Administration should focus on strengthening U.S. energy security, instead of enabling further dependence on fossil fuels.
Known as ‘The Alaskan Willow project’, this green light approval is expected to produce 9.2 million additional metric tons of CO2 each year, contributing to the already alarming levels of carbon emissions. Criticized as an act of terrorism against the climate, it strikes as another highlight for the need to phase out fossil fuel production. While the carbon impact of the Willow Project on its own is not catastrophically large, it is still a step in the wrong direction and goes against the goal of reducing carbon emissions to stabilize the planet's temperature.
While achieving a peak in carbon emissions may seem like good news, it's important to note that this only means that we will continue to do the same amount of damage to the planet's climate as the previous year, which is still more than any year in human history. The ultimate goal is to reach zero carbon emissions, which is a monumental task that requires a massive effort on technical, industrial, political, and societal levels. The timeline for achieving this goal varies depending on the desired warming goals, but it is clear that fossil fuel production and development must be drastically reduced.
To achieve these goals, a "supply side" approach to decarbonization is necessary, which involves drawing down the use of fossil fuels. However, the United States continues to prioritize the fossil fuel industry, with the approval of more oil and gas expansion than any other country in the world. While the Biden administration has approved more oil and gas permits than the Trump administration, the Inflation Reduction Act may not even reduce domestic oil production by a single barrel over the next decade. Although efforts from the European Union's commitment to a fossil fuel phaseout and the growth of renewable energy seem promising, the reality of reaching the ambitious climate goals set by the Paris Agreement demands substantial reduction in carbon emissions; being a monumental challenge of the decade.