The news of the Biden administration’s decision to approve ConocoPhillips’ “Willow Project” violates President Biden’s campaign promise to end drilling on public lands. His rhetoric on climate change being the “existential crisis” of our times is not being matched by the administration’s actions. The massive oil development on the Alaskan North Slope is antithetical to what the United States must do to tackle the climate crisis and avoid the worst impacts. The project will tarnish pristine wilderness, impact indigenous communities, and unleash a carbon bomb of greenhouse gas emissions in the process.
An aerial photo of Alaska’s North Slope, the site of the approved Willow Project (Photo Credit: NPR and ConocoPhillips via AP).
The catastrophic decision will produce the equivalent emissions of the annual output of 76 coal plants. Willow will generate more than twice the emissions of all renewable energy projects on public lands combined. There is simply no squaring approval for this project and meeting the President’s goals for emissions reductions.
Unfortunately, the decision to approve the Willow Project is not the only anti-climate stance the Biden administration has taken recently. Last week, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm attended the CERAWeek conference in Houston, a summit held by oil and gas executives. In her remarks, Secretary Granholm used common oil industry talking points, stating:
We know that oil and gas is going to remain a part of our energy mix for years to come. In the middle of the century we are going to be using abated fossil fuels. We need to advance the technologies for abating fossil fuels. We need both traditional and new energy.”
These remarks come after recent reporting that the Department of Energy is working with gas industry lobbyists to develop a “green standard” for natural gas in order to increase exports of American methane. While the Inflation Reduction Act created positive incentives for the U.S to internally adopt clean energy, the rush to ship our emissions abroad will do nothing but exacerbate the climate crisis.
Economic analysis from researchers at Rutgers University have noted that reducing the supply-side of fossil fuels is crucial to fighting climate change. Recent U.S policy has focused on incentivizing the development of renewable energy, but with massive subsidies still in place for fossil fuels, we are not providing the “stick” necessary to keep fossil fuels in the ground.
There are already enough fossil fuels in production to shoot the world well over habitable levels, adding Willow to the mix is pouring more gasoline on the fire.