President Biden has approved a 30-year oil drilling project on federal land in Alaska, breaking one of his key campaign promises to block new oil and gas drilling on federal lands and waters. The Department of the Interior granted permits for ConocoPhillips' Willow Project, which could produce up to 614 million barrels over its lifespan and spew 278 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions, equivalent to the carbon footprint of 2 million cars. Prominent environmental groups and progressives criticized the decision, saying it ignored irrefutable science that called for the halt of such projects to slow climate change.
While the agency reduced the size of the project by 40%, it will still produce about 92% of the oil the company sought to produce with its original five-site proposal. In contrast, Biden promised to protect America's natural treasures by banning new oil and gas drilling on public lands and waters and protecting wildlife refuges in Alaska, which he repeated throughout his campaign. He also vowed to end fossil fuel, including subsidies for the fossil fuel industry and drilling on federal lands and waters.
Biden's decision contradicted his pledge to ban new oil and gas leasing on federal lands and has disappointed many who supported him during the 2020 election because of his commitments, such as "no more drilling on federal land." The younger generation overwhelmingly supported Biden because of his environmental policies, and his decision to approve the Willow Project will have a significant impact on their lives. Many environmentalists and progressives criticized the decision, calling it disastrous and wrong on every level.
Although the White House press secretary defended the decision, stating that the president's hands were tied legally, the administration has previously reversed past lease decisions implemented by the Trump administration. The approval of the Willow Project is a significant departure from Biden's campaign promises and could negatively impact his administration's environmental agenda.
Senators and representatives have expressed their disappointment and criticized the decision. The Western Arctic is one of the last great wild landscapes on the planet and belongs to every American, said Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M. He added that industrial development in this unspoiled landscape would not age well. Similarly, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., said the best way to lower energy prices was to shift to renewables that were cheaper in the long run and not subject to Big Oil's price gouging whims.
Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., noted that Biden had promised to ban drilling on federal lands during his campaign, and the decision to approve the Willow Project would have devastating consequences on the planet, frontline communities, and wildlife. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., said the decision was wrong on every level, and Rep. Maxwell Frost, D-Fla., the youngest member of Congress, added that the commitment not to drill on federal land had been broken, disappointing the younger generation that supported Biden