A new oil drilling project in the melting Arctic

A LAWSUIT has been filed by a group of NGOs against the decision of Joe Biden to open a new oil drilling project. Located in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska, the project led by ConocoPhillips is called the Willow Project. Described as a climate bomb by the defenders of nature, the project will be challenged in court this month.

When Joe Biden accepted a new oil drilling project in Alaska, it shook NGOs to their core. Biden made many promises during his campaign such as to reduce by half greenhouse-gas emissions by 2030. However, many think he failed in his endeavours with this new project that will produce around 180,000 barrels of oil per day over 30 years. 

A ConocoPhillips Oil drilling station in the North Slope in Alaska. PHOTO / CONOCOPHILLIPS
A ConocoPhillips Oil drilling station in the North Slope in Alaska. PHOTO / CONOCOPHILLIPS

“Biden has no excuse for letting this project go forward in any form,” said Kristen Monsell, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity and one of the main actors against the project. “New Arctic drilling makes no sense, and we’ll fight hard to keep ConocoPhillips from breaking ground.”  

Earthjustice and the NRDC (the Natural Resources Defense Council) filed a lawsuit in the hope of stopping what they call a climate bomb that will release 260 million metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere. It is equivalent to adding two million vehicles onto the roads for 30 years.

The Arctic is warming four times faster than the rest of the planet said Kristen Monsell. “ConocoPhillips’ plan involves using giant chillers to refreeze thawing permafrost to ensure a solid drilling surface,” said Kristen Monsell.

Infrastructures and the oil companies

Life in Alaska can be quite solitary and remote and often rely on the oil industry for the construction of infrastructure.

“Alaska unfortunately has made itself very dependent on the oil wealth,” said Mike Coumbe, Deputy Director of the Alaska Conservation Foundation. “It’s a really difficult life to lead and they sort of provide income, they provide support, they provide funds that make life easier.” 

“By the time this comes along, there might not be the demand for the oil [anymore] and that’s something that we have seen in Alaska over the decades,” said Rick Thoman, Alaska Climate specialist. “The oil companies have no loyalty to Alaska. If it’s not profitable, they will walk away.”

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