Willow Project: A Carbon Bomb is Exploding in the Arctic of Alaska

Karlin Nageak Itchoak, senior director for Alaska at the non-profit Wilderness Society, is very much against the $ 8 billion petroleum extraction Willow Project. The Willow Project is in a 25-million acre-park of largely pristine wilderness in the Arctic of Alaska. The official name of this beautiful land is the National Petroleum Reserve. Imagine giving such a name to this planetary paradise of wildlife and indigenous societies!

The Willow Project is supposed to produce 180,000 barrels of petroleum per day, which represents 1.5 percent of all US oil production. Building the transportation and mining infrastructure for extracting petroleum from this vast territory will do irreparable damage to ecosystems and wildlife in Alaska. It will also inflict deleterious harm on the planet by telling the world the United States will continue its petroleum business as usual. Besides, an active Willow Project will nullify all the promises President Joe Biden made for fighting climate change. Biden will then look no better than Donald Trump or other presidents in the pocket of the petrochemical industry.

No wonder Itchoak described the Willow Project as “a carbon bomb that cannot be allowed to explode in the Arctic.” She added: “Our Native villages are eroding into the sea, thawing permafrost is making infrastructure insecure, and food sources are disappearing. And this project would just exacerbate and speed up the climate crisis in the Arctic.”

Wilderness Society is not alone in opposing the Willow Project. Environmentalists all over America are against it. Another environmental organization named Action Network denounced the petroleum extraction in the Arctic of Alaska, saying:

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“The Willow Project will be devastating for all those that call the Arctic home. The noise, traffic, and pollution the project brings will disrupt ecosystems that Indigenous Alaskans have relied on for millennia. And the project threatens the already vulnerable caribou population — a vital resource many native communities rely on.”

Environmental organizations are right. Scientific studies are showing that “during the last 43 years the Arctic has been warming nearly four times faster than the globe.” Scientists consider this development alarming “because the Arctic contains sensitive and delicately balanced climate components that, if pushed too hard, will respond with global consequences.”

The Arctic in winter is covered by a relatively thin layer of ice, measuring one to two meters. That layer of ice is then peppered by snow. This frozen blanket reflects most of the solar radiation, that is, about 85 percent of Sun heat is sent back into space. But once this thin ice breaks up and melts, rays from the Sun push about 90 percent of their heat into the water of the Arctic sea, thus heating the Arctic so much faster than the terrestrial regions of the planet.

Despite the feared ecocide from an approved Willow Project in the country’s largest unspoiled land of 23 million acres in Alaska’s Arctic, Biden is certain to support the oil extraction. The New York Times reports that such a move will be one of Biden’s “most consequential climate decisions… planning to greenlight an enormous $8 billion oil drilling project in the North Slope of Alaska… despite “substantial concerns” about emissions, danger to freshwater sources and threats to migratory birds, caribou, whales and other animals that inhabit the region.”

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Greenlighting petroleum extraction in Alaska connected to the war in Ukraine

Certainly, this obscene decision will broadcast the world over the untrustworthiness of Biden. His campaign promises were straightforward. Time is now to abandon oil for the Sun and the wind. But instead of zeroing on the complexity, science, and daring of bringing America and other countries together for the epic struggle to fight the anthropogenic climate danger, he moved rapidly to war in Ukraine. The war was easy though irresponsible and extremely dangerous to national and world security. Shipping to Ukraine all the armaments it needs to “defeat” Russia! Think of the insanity of a strategy to defeat Russia when that country has enough nuclear weapons to blot out both Ukraine, the NATO countries, including America.

But the war in Ukraine connects to this utterly incomprehensive and destructive decision to allow petroleum companies to desecrate and probably kill most ecosystems and denigrate Alaska’s indigenous people in the Arctic. American forces behind the war in Eastern Europe probably blew up Nord Stream, the Russian natural gas pipeline to Germany. President Biden had promised the pipeline would be gone if Russia invaded Ukraine. This war act raised the prices of natural gas worldwide and enriched the American producers of natural gas, now exporting their product to Europe. This mania for war profits probably explains why Biden is exploding the carbon bomb in Alaska. He is defending the fossil fuel industry which is threatening and endangering America and the world with catastrophic climate consequences.

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Evaggelos Vallianatos is a historian and environmental strategist, who worked at the US Environmental Protection Agency for 25 years. He is the author of seven books, including the latest book, The Antikythera Mechanism.

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