A significant oil and gas drilling project in Alaska that was opposed vehemently by environmentalists has been approved by US President Joe Biden.
ConocoPhillips, the corporation behind the Willow project, claims it will attract local investment and generate thousands of employment.
But in recent weeks, there has been a flood of online activism against the $8 billion (£6.6 billion) proposal, especially among young activists on TikTok.
Its effects on the climate and fauna led opponents to suggest that it should be stopped.
It is the largest oil development in the area in decades and could produce up to 180,000 barrels of oil per day. It is situated on Alaska’s isolated North Slope.
Estimates from the US Bureau of Land Management indicate that it might produce up to 278 million metric tonnes of CO2e over the course of its 30-year lifespan, which is the same as adding two million new automobiles to US roadways each year.
The climate impact of all greenhouse gases combined, as if they were all released as carbon dioxide, is expressed in CO2e.
As a sort of compromise with anti-Willow campaigners, Monday’s announcement will only permit three drill sites for the project as opposed to the five that were initially requested.
A day after the Biden administration restricted oil and gas production on 16 million acres in Alaska and the Arctic Ocean, the approval also comes.
Activists have said that President Biden’s promises to take the lead on climate action were contradicted by Willow.
A Change.org petition requesting the suspension of Willow received more than three million signatures, and more than one million letters of complaint were sent to the White House.
The environmental charity Sierra Club stated on Monday that the decision was misguided and will be disastrous for communities, lands, animals, and our climate.
Alaskan Iuipat activist Sonny Ahk claimed that Willow would “lock in Arctic oil and gas extraction for another 30 years and catalyze future oil expansion in the Arctic” when he advocated against it.
Local inhabitants are forced to deal with the negative effects of being surrounded by big drilling operations, he claimed, while out-of-state businessmen reap record profits.
However, all three of Alaska’s congressional representatives—two Republicans and a Democrat—fought to have the project approved, praising it as a vital investment in the local communities.
They further claimed that it would minimize the nation’s reliance on foreign oil while boosting domestic energy production.
“This was the right decision for Alaska and our nation,” stated ConocoPhillips CEO Ryan Lance on Monday.
He said that the American energy behemoth, which already produces the most crude oil in Alaska, will increase energy security, provide quality union jobs, and benefit Alaska Native communities.