The Willow Project: What You Need To Know

Brooke Brunet, Editor

Over the last month, the Willow Project has been circulating all over social media. Once the public was aware that the Biden administration was considering approving it, the president began facing tremendous backlash. Many Americans, as well as people around the globe, are concerned about how Willow could affect the environment–especially the Alaskan wildlife.

The WilPhoenix Offshore Oil Rig (

For context, the Willow Project is a plan to drill in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, a government-owned area on Alaska’s northern coast. This project was proposed by ConocoPhillips, an American company that searches and produces oil, and is the largest oil producer for Alaska. It was originally approved by former president Donald Trump in 2020, and it has now carried over into Biden’s presidency. Since oil production in the U.S. has declined, ConocoPhillips has been pushing for approval, due to the fact that the project has potential to produce around 600 million barrels of oil over the next 30 years.

One of the major concerns when it comes to environmental concerns is global warming. The burning of this large amount of oil could release about 250 million metric tons of carbon pollution. This could lead to a major increase of global warming, due to the fact that carbon pollution is responsible for 80% of it. In Alaska currently, sea ice is melting, causing the ocean level to rise; it can negatively impact the homes of both natives and wildlife. Since global warming is already a concern for Alaska, many are angry about the potential detriment that can be caused. In addition, the wildlife in Alaska will suffer, with their homes being taken over by construction and pollution from drilling, they will bear the consequences.

After this project was given the go-ahead by president Biden, many Americans who supported him for his promise to keep the environment in mind now feel a sense of betrayal. Though Biden promised to keep the environment in mind, he still allowed for this project to undertake. A lot of those who voted for Biden did it with hopes for improvements in areas such as pollution and climate change. Now that he has given permission for such a detrimental project to take place, they believe they were lied to. Though, there are misconceptions when it comes to Biden’s approval for Willow.

What many people don’t know is the project was previously approved by Donald Trump, so there were already leases for it to take place. Legally, president Biden could not go back on this to put a complete stop to the project. With ConocoPhillips being such a large company, they have the ability to sue if Biden goes back on the leases. This means they could likely win a lawsuit, gain immense amounts of money, and still follow through with their plans for the Willow Project.

Unfortunately, Biden had limited control over what would or wouldn’t take place, but he was able to limit the project from five drilling pads to only three. This will make the project site smaller and keep it out of migration paths and nesting sites of the animals in the area. The Biden administration has also come out and said that they have plans to consider additional measures to protect wildlife.

Now that ConocoPhillips has the permission to begin operations, they may start at any time. As of now, they have not made any statements as to when they will start construction, but it has been assumed that construction can only take place in winter, due to the need for ice roads to build. There are also legal challenges holding back production, so hypothetically, this project could be put on hold for a few years.