Tug-of-war between economy and environment: What does the Willow Project mean for us?


Zenil Koovejee

The site of the recently approved Willow Project includes snow-capped mountains in Alaska’s North Slope.

On March 13, President Joe Biden announced the approval of the Willow Project, a multi-decade oil drilling venture within Alaska’s North Slope, amid ongoing debates concerning its environmental impact and economic benefits.

“The Willow Project will produce more than 600 barrels of crude oil over 30 years, burning 280 million metric tons of carbon emissions, with 9.2 million metric tons annually,” said Sena Delibalta (‘25).

Situated in the National Petroleum Reserve, the Willow Project was proposed by ConocoPhillips, and was approved by the Trump Administration in 2020. After undergoing revisions, including a reduction in the number of drill pads, the initiative received the green light from the White House, positioning it as a viable source of employment and revenue for the Alaskan community.

“I think the Willow Project is a really sad project to come to, because historically, the Biden administration has had a strong stance on climate change, and this new revelation is something out of the ordinary, and not very good,” said Ritwik Aeka (‘26).

As the project produces more than 600,000 barrels of crude oil over 30 years, it could increase the global oil supply, leading to a decrease in oil prices. This could translate to lower gas prices for Bay Area residents and have a positive ripple effect on the broader US economy.

Also, despite the Biden Administration’s commitment to addressing the climate crisis in the US, the recent approval of the project has sparked outrage from certain environmentalist groups. Various political commentators have suggested that Biden’s hands were tied due to Conoco’s existing (leases in the area, and the legal limitations that prevented them from fully rejecting or scaling back the project.

“Everyone is blaming Biden for the Willow Project. But, he himself can not stop it and he has already made measures to lessen the damage. He does not have the power to actually stop it – that is the whole government. People are blaming the wrong person,” said Ellie Kim (‘25).

Some environmental advocates, like Earthjustice, a climate law group, are challenging the project in court. Students at Amador are also fighting, raising awareness through conversation and social media

“I thought the Willow Project had ended, and people were posting that it was declined. And then now I saw it was approved. I can’t believe it,” said Veronica Pascul (‘25).  

All in all, the approval of the Willow Project has brought to the forefront the ongoing struggle between economic development and environmental protection, highlighting the complex issues surrounding the energy industry and its impact on the global tapestry.