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Prior to his election in late 2020, the Biden Administration had outlined their plans to lead the international community by example in efforts to counteract the global climate crisis. These plans not only included the proposal of an overhaul of environmentally harmful infrastructure and a supposed clean energy revolution, but also detailed a commendable goal of reducing the nation’s total carbon emissions by 50% before the year 2050. With the recent approval of the Willow Project, however, it seems that the Biden administration is taking several steps backwards in the fight against climate change, despite precedents set by actions early on within their time in office.
The Willow Project, which was approved just as of monday March 13th, is an extensive, decades long oil drilling venture set to take place in Alaska’s oil rich northern slope. The area, also known as the National Petroleum Reserve, is estimated to contain roughly 600 million barrels of oil, and while the large reserve may take up to 30 years to access completely the decision is a huge win for Alaska residents and supporters nationwide who cite the economic benefits of the oil project as necessary in a region lacking steady sources of revenue and reliable job opportunities.
Nevertheless, proponents of the new plan fail to recognize the drastic effects which the decision will have on not just the United States, but the global community as a whole. While the idea of new jobs and increased revenue may sound beneficial on paper, the potential benefits of the project are inconsequential in the face of the carbon emissions which the new oil could produce. According to estimates by the Biden Administration itself, enough oil would be generated to release an annual amount of polluting carbon equal to an additional 2 millions gas powered cars.
And as such, climate activists nationwide have been up in arms about the decision with some such as Abigail Dillen, president of environmental law group Earthjustice, even going as far as to say that the project is “directly undermining the new clean economy” that Biden and Harris had promised voters throughout their campaign and first years in office. In addition to millions of letters begging the Administration to cancel the project and signatures on petitions seeking to halt the project, environmentalist groups such as Earthjustice, plan to take the project to court, arguing that the government's efforts to properly utilize and protect the nation’s natural resources also include containing and combating the growth of the climate crisis.
All in all, the decision represents a unique move from the Biden administration, while there is heavy praise coming from Alaskan natives and many of those within congress who fail to recognize the imminent climate crisis. Though the President in past weeks did begin efforts to reduce the number of drilling pads being implemented, lobbying by supporters of the project led to no real change. Thus, the decision ultimately begs the question as to what Biden’s intentions are in undermining his own climate plans.