The Problem with the Willow Project

Sign saying "stop the willow project"

The Willow Project is a controversial new oil-drilling project that was just approved by the Biden Administration. It was originally approved by the Trump administration in 2020, to build five drill pads. The Biden administration ultimately reduced it to three. It is set to produce 600 million barrels of oil, enough oil to release 9.2 million metric tons of Carbon Dioxide a year.

It has caused total hysteria online, especially on TikTok. Some have claimed that this would be the final straw in the climate crisis, that this is the point of no return that Extinction Rebellion has been warning us about for years. However, I have been extremely suspicious that this hysteria seemed a bit out of proportion – but as a self-proclaimed climate activist, I have ultimately ended up supporting this kind of “doom-posting”.

However, last night I saw a post that finally pushed me to do my own research about the Willow Project. The post claimed that America had fallen into a fascist regime, with the Willow Project being the opening reason. It didn’t sit right with me, because it’s not fascists that have devastated our natural environment, but capitalists. Calling projects like this “fascist” allows rightful criticism of capitalists and capitalist motivation to be avoided. It further cemented to me, that this is primarily liberal panic, focusing on one horrific example without criticising the system that has allowed it for centuries.

I have literally seen people who have never posted about politics in their online lives, post about the Willow Project. The problem is, in the grand scheme of things, the Willow Project is not that big of a deal.

But first, more background. America has a massive issue with privatisation and corporate lobbying. In the case of the Willow Project, the Biden Administration has opened the drilling of Alaska’s North Slope to ConocoPhillips, “Alaska’s largest crude oil producer”. They are a multinational company based in Texas. To get this law passed, they will have lobbied both the Democrat Party and the Republican Party. Now that it has gone through the final stage of approval, they will be able to drill on that previously protected land.

On average the US reported that 11,880 barrels of crude oil were produced daily in 2022. Taking into account that this is the total sum of production from 37 different sites – it can be estimated that the Willow Project will take 5 years to extract 600,000 barrels of crude oil – producing 47 million metric tons of Co2. How can that not be a big deal?

  • BP: 31.9 Million metric tons in 2022
  • Shell: 51 Million metric tons in 2022
  • The US Military: 51 Million metric tons in 2021 and 2022 (celebrated as a reduction)
  • The UK: 478 Million metric tons in 2020
  • The US Government as a whole: 5.6 BILLION FUCKING TONS IN 2022 ALONE.

The Willow Project is a distraction. For once, it’s a distraction that the oil companies did not do themselves. This is mass hysteria, originally started by well-meaning climate activist groups which has spiralled into out-of-proportion, international panic. I have some good news, the Willow Project will not end the world. I have some bad news though, it gets much worse.

You have every right to be angry about this, this represents another broken promise from the Biden Administration. Every year oil and gas companies cause more damage to our world than the Willow Project will do in five. The problem isn’t the Willow Project, the problem is capitalism.

Oil and gas companies are rewarded for raping the world of its resources with record profits. In 2022, Shell made $40 Billion, BP made $28 Billion and Exxon Mobil made $56 Billion. How can we expect to save our planet from the climate crisis if we continue rewarding energy companies for their crimes with record profits? They are criminals for doing it and our governments are guilty by association.

Either oil and gas companies need to be overthrown, or the governments that enable them do. The Willow Project is a symptom of a wider issue. The profit motive is the reason nothing gets done about it. The climate crisis is a capitalist problem – fuck BP, fuck Shell, fuck Exxon, fuck the governments that let them destroy our world. End capitalism, and stop the Willow Project.


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