Oil power vs climate change: where do RWU students stand?


Erlend Ekseth on Unsplash

A pipe by the sea

With the discovery of a vast amount of usable oil found in the Willow Prospect area west of Alpine, Alaska, a project known as The Willow Project arose, directly administered by ConocoPhillips. This company focuses on engaging in hydrocarbon exploration and production. This approval has created an uproar within environmentalist groups such as Earthjustice, who are retaliating against the oil drilling. Personally, I feel that The Willow Project has more negative traits than positive, especially when related to climate change. Also, the project will create problems for future generations that will be irreversible.

Over 6 million people have signed a petition to retaliate against the further production of this oil pipeline. Many are worried that this will ultimately harm the future generations that will be brought into this world. The benefits offered by the Willow project include the highest environmental standards and the lowest emissions of any major project in the world, support of the Alaska Legislature, and the opportunity to enhance America’s national security. On the flip side though, the project would disturb wildlife by adding an abundance of noise, traffic, and all sorts of pollution to the surrounding ecosystems, including 280 million metric tons of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) predicts the project will impact Arctic wildlife, Native American communities. They state that “the Willow project would damage the complex local tundra ecosystem and release the same amount of greenhouse gasses annually as half a million homes.”

Another main topic of discussion is that the project is at odds with President Biden’s climate goals to create a carbon pollution-free carbon sector by 2035. The Biden administration had the authority to stop the project yet chose not to. This contradicts the meeting in 2022 in which the Biden administration hosted thousands of supporters to celebrate groundbreaking legislation targeting climate change. More importantly, many people in my generation are upset by this because of how it is going to affect our future and destroy planet Earth.

I went around RWU’s campus and asked students what their views were on the signing off of the Willow project. Of a total of 18 students, 13 of them said that they had negative thoughts about the Willow project, whereas 5 did not. On the positive side, I got feedback such as “It will ultimately help the U.S. to gain more power and security which may help us in the future” and “The U.S. will have the upper hand when it comes to access to materials and also gas prices may ultimately be lower.” Those who had negative thoughts, like myself, said “This project is going to destroy ecosystems and disrupt wildlife” and “We as a younger generation need to seek higher-up officials in which we can trust to help us take on climate change.” So, as you can see that this is something that affects everyone, I ask you what your thoughts are? We are the generation who can, in time, stop this and slowly fix climate change; if not, we will have to live with its consequences.