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What is the controversial Willow Project, one of the largest oil exploitation plans in the history of Alaska that Biden approved

The president of USAPresident Joe Biden has approved a major oil and gas drilling project in Alaska, which is facing strong opposition from environmental activists.

The goal is to produce up to 180,000 barrels of oil per day.

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ConocoPhillips, the company behind the Willow Project, claims it will create thousands of jobs and generate local investment.

However, the $8 billion initiative has faced criticism from environmental organizations.

Critics of the project argue that it should be stopped for its impacts on climate and wildlife in the region.

Located on the remote North Slope in Alaska, it is the largest oil project deployed in the area in decades.

Extractive activities will generate up to 278 million metric tons of CO2e over its 30-year lifespan, the equivalent of adding two million cars to American roads each yearaccording to estimates by the United States Bureau of Land Management.

CO2e or carbon dioxide equivalent is a unit used to express the climate impact of all greenhouse gases together, as if they were emitted as carbon dioxide.

mixed interests

Environmental activists argue that passage of the bill is inconsistent with Biden’s promises to lead on climate action.

More than a million letters of protest have been written to the White House. More than three million people signed a petition to stop Project Willow.

“It is the wrong step and it will be a disaster for wildlife, lands, communities and our climate.”the Sierra Club environmental organization said Monday.

Located on the remote North Slope in Alaska, it is the largest oil project deployed in the area for decades. (GETTY IMAGES)

Sonny Ahk, a young Iñuipat activist from Alaska who campaigned against the Willow Project, said the development “will catalyze future oil expansion in the Arctic.”

“While out-of-state executives make record profits, local residents must deal with the detrimental impacts of being surrounded by massive drilling operations“, he claimed.

However, all three lawmakers representing Alaska in Congress, including one Democrat, lobbied for the project’s passage, touting it as a much-needed investment for communities in the region.

They also argued that it will help boost domestic energy production and decrease the country’s dependence on foreign oil.

ConocoPhillips, already Alaska’s largest crude oil producer, said the project will improve energy security and provide benefits to Alaska Native communities.

Analysis by Matt MacGrath, BBC environment correspondent

Why has a president who has cracked down on climate change just approved a project dubbed a “carbon bomb”?

The answer is that the Willow Project is all about politics and law.not with the environment.

While running for office in 2020, Biden promised there would be “no more drilling on federal land, period.” That promise was broken last year when the government announced plans to issue drilling licences, under pressure from the courts.

The White House will likely say that the role of the courts has also influenced Willow’s decision.

The Joe Biden government faced legal pressure to approve the project.  (GETTY IMAGES)

The Joe Biden government faced legal pressure to approve the project. (GETTY IMAGES)

the oil company ConocoPhillips has had a mining license since 1999 and would have had a strong case to appeal if its plans had been rejected..

The Biden administration is obviously aware that, from a purely climate perspective, the project is unjustifiable. However, as a concession to opponents, he has tried to balance approval with new bans on oil and gas development in the Arctic Ocean.

Most environmentalists don’t buy that tradeoff.

The Willow Project is also deeply political.. With presidential elections in 18 months, Biden wants to be seen as a centrist leader, concerned about oil supplies and prices for American citizens.

However, by giving the green light to the piercing, he is risking the support of many young people who voted for him in 2020.

Protection of sensitive areas

The US Department of the Interior announced that more than 1.2 million hectares of the Beaufort Sea, in the Arctic Ocean, would be “indefinitely off limits” for oil and gas drilling.

The measure ensures that a Important habitat for whales, seals, polar bears and other wildlife “will be protected in perpetuity from extractive development”the White House said in a statement.

The administration also indicated it would propose new limits on drilling on more than 5 million hectares of “ecologically sensitive” land in Alaska’s vast oil reservoir.

This is an area that was set aside a century ago for future oil production in Alaska, and is home to endangered species, including polar bears.

“With these actions, President Biden continues to deliver on the most aggressive climate agenda in American history,” they said from the White House.

However, environmental groups warn that the new limits do not go far enough.

Protecting one area of ​​the Arctic to destroy another does not make senseand it won’t help people and wildlife, which will be affected by Project Willow,” said Kristen Monsell, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity.

Michaela Stith, director of Climate Justice for the Native Movement, an Alaska-based social justice organization, told the BBC that some communities will take direct action because of Project Willow.

We live in a state monopolized by oil and gas“he said. “There are not many opportunities to do much more, so there will be local support [a la propuesta]. Our state has not been able to diversify its economy.”

Biden is trying to balance his goals of getting the United States to net zero carbon emissions by 2050 with pressure to increase fuel supplies to keep prices low.

Source: Elcomercio

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