The Willow Project, Good or Bad?

Skyler Fincher-Butler

Recently, there has been an uproar on social media because of a new proposal called The Willow Project. 

Petroleum Refinery Company ConocoPhillips wants to drill for oil in the National Petroleum Reserve located in Alaska. It is a “ 23 million-are region that represents the largest undisturbed public land in the U.S” reports NPR

The federal government owns this reserve, and ConocoPhillips offered a proposal to lease the land.

The Biden administration is considering leasing this region in order to make America less reliant on foreign oil as well as boost the economy reported CNN.

The project is massive, costing $6 billion, and would take decades to drill all the oil from Alaska’s North Slopes in the Natural Petroleum Reserve. 

This area is said to hold up to 600 million barrels of oil, which would benefit the country because of how much energy it would provide. 

However, there has been a lot of controversy surrounding these plans, leading to the 2.9 million petition signatures to stop the project. 

The Willow Project has both positives and negatives in regard to the products it can produce but also the damage it could cause.


The biggest positive aspect of The Willow Project is the job opportunities. This project would create over  2,000 construction jobs and 300 permanent jobs. This would lead to positive local and state economic benefits because these local jobs are needed for construction and operations. 

It is estimated that it would generate more than $10 billion in state, federal, and North Slope Borough revenue.

These new resources would aid in meeting domestic energy demands as well as help meet Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve’s purpose, which is to develop America’s energy resources.


There are many ecological and environmental downfalls that come with this proposal. The biggest issue with this project is pollution

There has been evidence to show that The Willow Project would produce over 278 million tonnes of greenhouse gallons in thirty years.

For reference, one tonne of gas is equivalent to 1,333 cubic meters of land, or 47,074.45 cubic feet. This is close to the equivalent combination of two million passenger cars’ emissions in the same time period.

It is proposed that the project could cause up to, if not more, than $19.8 billion in climate change-related issues

Then there are the social costs, which the Environmental Protection Agency estimates at $79 billion. 

Not only would there be atmospheric environmental issues, but it is going to cause a problem for the local wildlife. 

It is threatening the caribou population which is already an endangered and vulnerable species, as well as the polar bears that inhabit the area. This is due to the rising temperatures that decrease the cold, icy environment in which these animals thrive. 

Originally, the Trump administration approved The Willow Project, but a federal judge rejected the permits in 2021 in regard to environmental concerns. 

The Biden administration has seen numerous impact statements as well as addendums to the original project proposal. 

Update: The Biden administration has approved The Willow Project as of March 13.