Biden approves the Willow Project

The Willow Project first gained attention from TikTok, where users came out against the drilling in Alaska


Canva graphic of a glacier in Alaska featuring the Willow Project. Graphic created by Luke Soule using Canva.

Luke Soule, Multimedia Editor

Man-made long-term shifts in temperature and weather, more commonly known as climate change, have taken an increasingly alarming presence among environmentalists in recent years. Oil and natural gas drilling are two of the biggest practices in destroying the environment. The drilling releases greenhouse gasses such as methane that, while non-toxic, can trap heat in the atmosphere and result in an increase in temperature over time as more is released. Furthermore, animal habitats are destroyed from drilling oil and such a disruption in nature can be the cause of extinction for a certain species. 

Proposed by ConocoPhillips, Alaska’s largest oil producer, The Willow Project is an oil drilling project on Alaska’s entire frontier that would create jobs and boost energy production, but in return affect the environment in a negative way and pollute the atmosphere.

Citizens of Alaska and environmentalists have banded together to attempt to stop the advancement, and they have estimated that “[oil drilling] would release around 278 million metric tons of carbon pollution,” according to the CNN article “Climate advocates are rallying against the Willow Project. The White House is eyeing concessions to soften the blow.”

One McIntosh student is against the environmental effects that could have widespread negative effects.

“It would definitely affect us economically in a positive way, based on providing jobs and lowering the price of oil,” junior Caroline Lawson said. “But I think that it would very negatively affect our environment, Alaska’s environment and the natives of Alaska, as in destroying their wildlife and putting tons and tons of CO2 into the atmosphere that does not need to be there and should not be there.”

But Lawson’s concerns are also closer to home.

“As far as locally, the more CO2 that we release into the atmosphere, the more the icebergs will melt and the more seas and oceans will rise. Georgia is a coastal state, and I think it will definitely start to raise water levels,” Lawson said.

The situation has even garnered a following on the social media platform TikTok, where users express their distress and brainstorm solutions to the problem.

“I’ve seen it on TikTok, and there are petitions online to sign to stop the project. You can also send letters to the White House; I know that there have been millions of people sending things to the White House. I think that’s the biggest thing that we can do. Also, just speak out about it and let people know,” Lawson said.

People have created and signed petitions on websites such as in order to stop the project, some amassing over three million signatures. 

“I think that they could really show the impact and show how against it people are, really show Biden in Congress, how horrible the decision is and how horrible it will be for those three million people [who signed the petitions],” Lawson said.

Environmental concerns have been a long-standing part of President Joe Biden’s political platform. 

Environmentalists urged Biden to take action against the project. Signing in favor of the project would contradict his pledges in his presidential campaign to end oil drilling on federal land, according to “Biden vowed to ban new drilling on public lands. It won’t be easy,” by The Washington Post.

On Sun. March 12, according to “Willow project: Biden curbs drilling ahead of decision on Alaska oil project” by BBC News, “[Biden] will prevent or limit oil drilling in 16 million acres in Alaska and the Arctic Ocean, an administration official said on Sunday.”

However, on Mon. March 13, the Biden administration approved the Willow Project.

Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said that Alaska was “now on the cusp of creating thousands of new jobs, generating billions of dollars in new revenues…improving quality of life on the North Slope and across our state,” according to the CNN article “Biden administration approves controversial Willow oil project in Alaska, which has galvanized online activism.”

Although the statement is true, environmentalists such as Earthjustice President Abigail Dillen expressed anger and sadness in response to the approval.

“We know President Biden understands the existential threat of climate, but he is approving a project that derails his own climate goals,” Dillon said, according to CNN.

Biden also announced protections preventing Arctic drilling in the future besides the Willow Project, according to the CNN article “Biden will announce sweeping protections preventing new Arctic drilling ahead of Willow decision.”

“The benefits definitely do not outweigh the cost. There are short-term benefits to, again, economics and providing jobs, but I think the long-term effect and the effect for future generations is going to be far more devastating. That would be criminal,” Lawson said.