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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UC Berkeley chapter.

During the 2020 presidential campaign, one of the major promises that then-candidate Joe Biden made was to “end new oil and gas drilling on public lands and waters.” This promise, along with many other environmental health policies, solidified U.S. voters’ decisions to vote for President Biden as the 46th President of the United States, myself included. However, Biden’s reputation as the “first climate president” is deteriorating with the passing of the Willow Project. 

Biden’s administration just approved the Willow Project this past Wednesday, leaving climate activists speechless. The Willow Project is a massive and decades-long oil-drilling project that is being proposed in Alaska by ConocoPhillips, an oil corporation. 

ConocoPhillips’ goal is to “drill around 200 wells on Alaska’s North Slope near the Native village of Utqiagvik .” This project is supposed to generate around 600 million barrels of oil over the next 30 years. It’s been argued that this project will benefit the Alaskan natives and the local economy, given that the oil-drilling project will provide thousands of jobs and revenue to the state. According to Nagruk Harcharek, the president of native Alaskan advocacy group, Voice of the Arctic Iñupiat, the project will create a steady revenue stream that is crucial to the native population’s livelihood. While some Alaskan natives are indicating their support for the Willow Project, many are concerned about the environmental impacts that this project would ultimately impose on their landscape. 

However, climate activists and organizations are against this proposal, due to its negative impact on climate change. Based on the Biden administration’s own estimates, this project would release carbon emissions equivalent to “adding 2 million gas-powered cars to the roads,” or running 70 coal-powered plants for a year straight. 

In other words, the effects of this deal are vast and terrifying for our planet. First, there will be at least three oil drilling spots in the Alaskan landscape for another 30 years. Second, these oil drilling spots would disturb the natural habitats of Alaskan native species, particularly impacting the migration patterns of caribou. Third, this project would significantly contribute to the climate crisis, releasing millions of carbon emissions every year. 

It is thus crucial to not only reject the Willow Project, but to also voice our opinions to the Biden Administration. Currently, there’s a petition that has nearly 50 million signatures, which can be found at this link. It has been trending on social media platforms, with many influencers expressing their disappointment about the project’s approval.

In addition, climate organizations and students are writing letters to the Biden Administration, begging for the halting of the Willow Project. One particular environmental justice organization, Earthjustice, will even be suing the Biden Administration regarding the Willow Project. For Gen-Zers, this is a project that could seal our fate with the climate crisis. We can not afford any new oil or gas projects if we want to avoid complete climate ruin. 

Although the Willow Project has already been approved by President Biden’s administration, there are still opportunities for American citizens to halt or at least delay this project. Instead of advancing this 8 billion dollar deal, we should focus on sustainable job opportunities to bolster the state’s economy. Oil drilling in the area would only exacerbate the economic and environmental difficulties that Alaska is already facing. Sure, the oil drilling project will help improve their economy for 30 years, but at what cost? The oil from this plan would not be ready for consumption until 2030, at which point, oil and gas as a fuel source could be irrelevant.

Since Biden essentially approved the Willow Project under the caveat that all other federal Arctic waters will be protected from new oil leasing and part of his climate goal plan was to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030, this “new oil” may be less profitable in our future economy. 

To ensure sustainability and economic prosperity for Alaska, funds should be reallocated to search for a more feasible source of revenue for the state. Only when we reframe the ways in which we aid state economics so that environmental health isn’t sacrificed, can we finally make large steps forward in combating the climate crisis. 

In terms of the Willow Project, it is imperative that American citizens, especially younger generations, continue to sign the petition and to keep sending letters to both state representatives and the Biden administration. It’s not too late for us to stop the Willow Project. It’s not too late for us to have a future on this planet.

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Kiana Lee

UC Berkeley '23

Kiana is a senior at UC Berkeley, where she is currently studying cognitive science and health and wellness. Originally from San Jose, Kiana spends most of her free time in the pool, listening to music, or tending to her plant babies.