An Exploration of the Willow Project


What is the Willow Project, and why is there debate surrounding it? (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)

As soon as President Joe Biden passed the “Willow Project” recently, climate and environmental activists as well as the Democrat Party found a new cause to protest. While eco-activists are resisting increased drilling operations in Alaska, a bipartisan coalition has advanced this long-developed plan in order to unite the country around shared economic needs.  There is a reason why Republicans and the Biden administration have crafted an unlikely alliance on this topic, both seeing a possible means to help the United States. 

But first, let’s state what exactly the Willow Project entails. Major oil company ConocoPhillips, in a press release issued last month, praised the project, which is expected to produce 180,000 barrels of oil a day while increasing US oil independence and generating $8-17 billion of expected tax income for the federal government. This project has been five years in the making and involves drilling oil in the National Petroleum Reserve located in North Slope Borough, Alaska. To carry out this project, the company needed to gain approval from the federal government on three of the intended drill sites. 

Despite the Biden administration’s support for the bill, other leading Democrats as well as numerous environmentalist groups have protested the Willow Project. The Sierra Club, a prominent environmentalist organization with the motto of: “[educating] and [enlisting] humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment,” has called out this project as a “climate disaster waiting to happen” in a recent statement. Instead of drilling this oil, the group instead called to “speed our transition to clean energy, not double-down on oil and gas.” They believe that we should spend our money, time, and resources towards a long-term energy plan. This is a position that many other environmentalist groups and Democrats have taken regarding this project. 

However, fossil fuels are currently the world’s main energy resource. And fortunately, the Earth has a large supply of it. In a time where America faces high unemployment rates, major inflation, and insanely high oil prices, the Willow Project could create thousands of jobs and 600 million barrels of oil over the next 30 years. To families who still face financial hardship in the aftermath of COVID, it would help so many get back on their feet if they were able to get a job working on the Willow Project. A steady job with good money that will last for many years will take a massive burden off of so many who are splitting their money between food, medical bills, and (you guessed it) gas. America is also relying heavily on oil imports from other countries after the president made it illegal for companies to drill on federal territory. Our country is in massive debt, and it is increasingly expensive to buy oil from other countries. Drilling in the USA would help our economy because we could sell it to other countries and provide for ourselves. Oil will become a cheaper and steadier necessity instead.

Prominent oil industry leaders have begun campaigns to show the American people how much we truly rely on petroleum and how it isn’t fair to bash their business when these consumers continue to profit from their product. Oil is much more than the liquid that fuels one’s car or keeps houses warm. It is vital in the production of make-up, perfume, medications, iPhones, clothes, and shoes, though this is just naming a few. These and thousands of other everyday necessities are made, in part, due to petroleum and other fossil fuels. A few years ago, North Face rejected an order for 400 custom jackets from a Texas oil and gas company. North Face said they “didn’t want to be associated with the oil industry.” Ironically, North Face items such as a coat or ski pants and equipment that allows participation in outdoor sports are also possible due in large part to petroleum fuel. Below is a video from a few years ago detailing North Face targeting a fossil fuel company, despite the fact that everything they produce and sell they rely on the production of petroleum. The video puts into perspective why we cannot claim our moral righteousness without examining how we rely on what we are condemning and what we would actually be willing to sacrifice to make the change we call on others to make. 

Though not everyone may like or support the Willow Project, I hope that after reading this article those who oppose can at least see why it will be beneficial to our country and what the Biden administration and the GOP were thinking when they passed the bill. I encourage you to keep an open mind and think about fossil fuel projects because our lives and society would be radically different without fossil fuels to give us so many of the things we rely on every day. 

North Face response video as mentioned above: 


By Sarah Lange ‘25, Rising Opinions Editor