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ConocoPhillips To Build Massive WillowOil Project

The Biden administration gave final approval on Monday, March 13, for ConocoPhillips to launch drilling on a massive oil drilling project called the ConocoPhillips Willow Oil project in the North Slope of Alaska, legacy media outlets reported on March 14.

Photo: The White House

The project had been in the works for five years before March 13. Biden’s decision became political quickly, with oil and energy mavericks in favor, and environmentalists critically opposed, wrote Inside Climate News. A record of the decision was released by the U.S. Department of the Interior's Record of Decision department.

“ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP) welcomes the Department of the Interior’s Record of Decision (ROD) on the Willow project, adopting the three core pads detailed in the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) preferred Alternative E. ConocoPhillips Alaska completed extensive preparations with key contractors and expects to immediately initiate gravel road construction activities,” ConocoPhillips stated on March 13, in an official press release published to its company site.

Power in Cooperation wrote that the Willow project could generate between $8 and 17 billion USD in profits.

The Willow Oil project’s controversy is not new, the Associated Press reported. The Willow project area, which is on the far eastern edge of the National Petroleum Reserve Alaska, is hailed as an “economic lifeline” by its supporters for the area's local Indigenous community, the AP explained. The oil reserve, which is reportedly roughly the size of Indiana, is massive and could produce “up to 180,000 barrels of oil per day,” the ConocoPhillips company stated, an output that is roughly 1.5% of all North American oil production.

However, the decision to approve all the drilling sites has put the oil reserve at odds with environmental agencies and Democrats in Congress. Both the environmental protection agencies and the Congressional Democrats have argued that the project is “out of step” with the effort to reduce emissions and decrease the impact of Global Warming, the Associated Press reported. However, Republicans in Congress were vocally supportive of the project, warning Biden in February “not to kill” the project. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan had rebutted Biden’s opposition to the project.

“We are decades, decades away from a time when we would be beyond oil resources. The need (for oil) is very, very much still there,” said Senator Murkowski, as she was quoted by Fox News on February 15.

Environmental agencies harshly rebuked the president for his role in pushing the ConocoPhillips process forward:

“The Biden Administration has just approved ConocoPhillips's Willow oil project, ignoring pleas from millions who called for the Alaska oil-drilling plan to be halted due to concerns about climate change,” Earthjustice tweeted on March 13.

@Interior’s record of decision ignores the project's dire climate and biodiversity impacts. It approves 3 drilling pads which will produce 92% of the oil ConocoPhillips initially sought to develop, amounting to more than 260 million metric tons of greenhouse gasses,” Earthjustice added, in a response to its previous tweet.

Former Vice President Al Gore called the decision “recklessly irresponsible,” and Senator Jeff Merkley (D. Oregon) stated that the decision was “a complete betrayal” of Biden’s promise, The New Yorker reported.

Criticism from mainstream media centered on President Joe Biden stemmed from his previous statements about the Willow Project. Biden had previously called out the project, warning that it would amount to “one big disaster,” The New Yorker reported.

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