Willow Project to create lasting global damage


Courtesy of rawpixel – While the Willow Project will help with energy security, it will amplify climate change and take away fossil fuels.

Mattie Beck, Arts & Entertainment Editor

The Willow Project, a recent oil drilling project in northern Alaska, will affect those all across the country, even in Wisconsin, Jim Feldman, the director of environmental studies at UW Oshkosh said. 

The project will create an increase in climate change due to the natural resources being put into the atmosphere.

“The real cost is that it takes fossil fuels that were safely stored underground in the form of petroleum,” he said. “[It eventually] sends those resources into the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide, thus exacerbating climate change.”

Feldman said the project was actually introduced before Joe Biden’s presidency, but was recently approved by his administration to start the project in Alaska. 

“This is the approval by the Biden administration of a new large petroleum drilling project in an area of the north slope of Alaska called the National Petroleum Reserve,” Feldman said. “It had been greenlighted during the Trump administration but held up in court.”

The opposition toward the project comes from what will be put into the atmosphere from it.

“We need to stop taking fossil fuel resources out of the earth and putting them into the atmosphere,” Feldman said. 

According to the Washington Post in their article “What is Willow? How an Alaska oil project could affect the environment,” the project will create an additional 70 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in the U.S.

That number is estimated to be equal to about 0.03 percent of all U.S. emissions in 2021.

The main reason for the project is due to the reliance the U.S. has on fossil fuels.

“The pros, I suppose, have to do with energy security,” Feldman said. “We are still dependent on fossil fuels and on petroleum, and until we are not, we will need to produce oil.”

The project is also happening due to its cheaper prices based on location, Bradley Spanbauer, the sustainability director at UWO said. 

“One might argue that the pros are more oil for the U.S. at a cheaper price because it will originate within the U.S. versus being procured from a foreign entity,” he said. “It is being sought by ConocoPhillips Co., who has other oil drilling operations in the same part of Alaska.”

The project goes against some of Biden’s previously proposed plans, Spanbauer said.

“This approval to expand U.S. oil extraction flies in the face of the Biden administration’s previous claims of keeping oil in the ground to avoid further damaging the environment,” Spanbauer said. “And contributing to rising emissions which is exacerbating climate change.”

Spanbauer said the project will ultimately harm the planet as it continues forward. 

“If the project moves forward, the construction of the platforms, pipelines and roads will alter habitat for all organisms in the area, including humans, and potentially expose them to harmful environmental hazards from bringing this oil up to the surface,” he said.

The project will cause long-lasting damage across the globe, Spanbauer said referencing the atmosphere.

“It will contribute to climate change — which has many far-reaching and devastating effects,” Spanbauer said. 

Along with the environmental damage, the consequences also include an eventual increase in gas prices, Shannon Davis-Foust, a senior lecturer in biology and environmental studies at UWO, said.

“I’m not sure if prices will go down, but in the long run, they’ll go up,” she said. “We also simply need to have more emphasis on renewable energy and energy efficiency.”

Davis-Foust said there should be a change toward clean energy in reference to this project.

“It’s simply going to contribute more carbon to the atmosphere,” Davis-Foust said. “Like I said, we need more emphasis on clean energy.”