The Willow Project in Alaska is now another step closer to “drill, baby drill.”
President Joe Biden has finalized approval for the Willow Project in Alaska. The decision, announced yesterday, is the quintessential example of talking out of both sides of one’s mouth.
The ConocoPhillips project is expected to “…pump about 576 million barrels of oil from a federally-managed reserve on Alaska’s North Slope….” over the course of 30 years. If it moves forward, its peak output would be “about 180,000 barrels per day.”
An operation of that scope would damage the Alaskan Arctic and the people, plants and animals whose habitat it is, to be sure, but the most significant damage would come from essentially locking in decades of additional fossil-fuel burning and carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere.
As a presidential candidate, Biden gave his word that he would not approve any new oil and gas permits on federal lands and waters. Unfortunately, the Willow Project is just the latest example of the president reneging on that promise. This is a continuation, not a first occurrence.
As the Center for Biological Diversity reported in January, “Federal data show the Biden administration approved 6,430 permits for oil and gas drilling on public lands in its first two years, outpacing the Trump administration’s 6,172 drilling-permit approvals in its first two years.”
Maybe that’s why, in what appears to be an overture to the environmental community, in conjunction with the Willow Project pronouncement the Biden administration announced “…it would seek to expand or strengthen protections across 16 million acres in the Alaskan Arctic, both onshore and in coastal waters, restricting or prohibiting oil and gas drilling in those areas.”
What, like that’s some kind of offset? Does he think this is a trading scenario? “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” for both sides of the fossil fuels vs. environmental advocates/scientists struggle?
Sure, it’s great the administration will “seek to” protect more of the Arctic, but seeking to and following through are entirely different things. Even if the administration is able to make good on what could, and probably will, turn out to be yet another empty promise, does Biden think it would make up for the colossal betrayal the Willow Project approval represents? It can’t, and it won’t.
In the context of what is rapidly moving from climate crisis to climate catastrophe, the time for tradeoffs has long since passed. Not a single species on Earth can afford those kinds of bargains anymore.
The announcement also came on the same day that Kal Penn interviewed Biden on The Daily Show. In what can only be viewed as the height of hypocrisy, Biden “…called upon the country to take action on climate change,” adding that our youth will be “damned” if world leaders don’t address it.
That, my friends, is a literal example of talking out of both sides of one’s mouth.
Reactions from environmentalists and climate-aware elected officials have been damning, not to mention swift. Unfortunately, with a handful of individual exceptions, in my judgement both major parties suck when it comes to the climate crisis (and most other things).
Meanwhile, reactions from regular folks on social media have ranged from fiery outrage to blasé to dismissive.
One Twitter commenter reminded the outraged that Trump would have approved the project years ago already. True, but that’s less than comforting and certainly not redeeming. Biden made a promise, and it was a key reason, if not the only reason, many people chose the lesser of two weak options in the 2020 election. Now he’s broken it, many times.
Don’t get overexcited, another advised, adding that environmental groups will have the approval tied up in court for years, if not decades. No oil is going to be drilled anytime soon, they said.
Perhaps, but it brings to mind the old adage that “possession is nine-tenths of the law.” An administration has now approved the Willow Project. It’s another step further along the continuum of calamity. And if it goes all the way to the Supreme Court, what are the odds the conservative majority will side with reason, logic and scientific fact? Slim, I’m afraid. Slim to none.
They say Biden is appealing to the middle. I say he’s gambling on the idea that his overtures won’t land us all in the middle of a hellscape. And that’s a bet no one should be willing to make.
Please sign the petition to stop the Willow Project, and spread the word on social media with #StopWillow.
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