February 28, 2024

The Biden administration approved the Willow Oil Project in Alaska on March 13, causing disputes among the public due to environmental issues. The project revolves around the U.S. commencing its plan in the North Alaskan Slope owned by the federal government to drill hundreds of tons of oil to reach the market. The government sees this as a favorable decision because the need to use foreign oil will be eliminated.

Still, environmentalists fear that the cost of more pollution in the atmosphere could be fatal.
Once started, it will take many years to complete and pay off. This is the main reason why skeptics and environmental activists are pushing back against this program. The project is led by ConocoPhillips, an energy company derived from the U.S. that has previously drilled oil in Alaska.

“ConocoPhillips Willow Project could unearth up to 600 million barrels of oil,” stated Ella Nilsen in a CNN article. “The venture could generate enough oil to release 9.2 million metric tons of carbon pollution annually. That’s equivalent to adding two million gas powered cars to the road.”

Even though environmental advocates do not favor this decision, this approval is a substantial presidential decision because former President Donald J. Trump proposed it, and now it will proceed with Biden. Biden and the Alaskan bipartisan congressional delegation agree that this project will be immensely rewarding for Alaska.

There will be more job opportunities for Alaskans and the U.S. will not have to depend on foreign oil, advocates say.

The detrimental effects of the pollution infuriate some Alaskan natives and environmentalists. Their main concern is that politicians are overlooking the severe effects of climate change and how quickly this project could escalate fossil fuel output. Activists believe that the climate would be unable to withstand this massive carbon distribution. According to Nilsen, thousands have written letters to the White House stating their disapproval of this project as well as advocating to sign online petitions.

“This project, along with previous ones opened by the Biden administration, has raised questions mainly by environmental activists due to the potential threats they pose on the climate,” said Effat Zeidan, associate professor of science and mathematics. “Our climate is suffering as is, and more projects that could potentially contribute to the destruction of native habitats are received with rejection.”
Environmentalists continue practicing their right to protest as they continue to urge President Joe Biden to reconsider this costly decision.

There is an online petition available on change.org that thousands have signed and more that will continue to do so.

Additionally, researching and getting in touch with advocacy is another method of active protesting.

“Activism involves winning and losing policy battles,” said Dr. Chase Porter, assistant professor of political science. “At least as of this moment, climate activists have lost this battle (they may still win in future court battles). That doesn’t necessarily carry any larger lesson for public activism — it can and should continue as an important part of the democratic process.”

The significance of this situation is that it encourages ongoing conversation between the government and the people.

Biden’s Interior Department responded, assuring the public of his loyalty to the environment.

“The Interior Department said Mr. Biden will designate about 2.8 million acres of the Beaufort Sea in the Arctic Ocean near shore in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska as indefinitely off limits for future oil and gas leasing,” wrote Lisa Freidman in a New York Times article. “That would ensure ‘this important habitat for whales, seals, polar bears, as well as for subsistence purposes, will be protected in perpetuity from extractive development.’”

Despite the controversy, environmental activists are encouraging the public to be more invested in this project.

“An educated populace is a necessity to a government like ours,” said Trevor Mannion, professor of political science. “Those driven to care about the world around them should be able to voice their concerns, but they should know what they are talking about when they voice their concerns. And that is vice-versa. Those opposed to restricting the project better have facts and figures about what may fall out from the project which makes it advantageous. This is a government of the people, by the people and for the people — the people need to know.”

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