If you’re in the loop on all climatological news and developments, the likelihood is that you’ll have seen or heard something about the Willow Bill in Alaska. A controversial development across both US politics and the global climate, the Willow Bill brings about changes that could have far-reaching and as-yet-unknown impacts on climate change.
But what about this newly approved bill is so controversial, and what might it mean for the efforts to reduce the effects of climate change? With so many conflicting sources, finding the facts can be an uphill struggle.
At Tariff, we’re not just committed to reducing your business’ carbon footprint through initiatives like net-zero and reducing your business’ energy consumption – we’re also firm believers in effective education on what’s going on in the world of energy.
With this article, we’ll explore the divisive Willow Bill, its approval by President Joe Biden, and what it means for the state of energy consumption and production both in the US, and globally.
The highly disputed Willow Bill approved and gave the go-ahead to the Willow project, a large-scale oil and gas drilling project in rural Alaska, the US’ northernmost state and one of its most naturally beautiful.
With much of the state dominated by frost-capped peaks, gossamered foliage and snowy cities and towns, Alaska is often seen as the last bastion in the preservation of indigenous flora and fauna across the US and North America as a whole.
The Willow Project is a huge drilling undertaking that aims to excavate reserves of natural oil and gas underneath Alaska. Headed up by energy corporation ConocoPhillips, the $7 billion project was originally planned to be much larger than what’s been approved, but the reduced proposals have still drawn understandable backlash.
Located in the National Petroleum Reserve, the proposed development area spans 230 million acres (or around 93 million hectares) on Alaska’s North Slope, which until now had remained the largest swathe of as-yet untouched public land in the US.
With President Biden and his administration now approving the project, it means that ConocoPhillips can begin work on a project that’s expected to produce over 600 million barrels of oil over the next 30 years, or around 11,000 barrels every day.
It’s figures like these that help demonstrate the startling scale of the Willow Project, but the worrying infrastructure that surrounds the project is of equal concern. There’d naturally need to be pipelines and multiple oil wells (an estimated 250) to acquire and transport the oil, but there’s much more than that, with the project’s proposals also outlining the need for:
While the Willow Bill itself only approves the project, it’s the ramifications for both the short- and long-term that have caused the considerable controversy that’s surrounded the project.
Despite its approval from both sides of the political spectrum, its endorsement from the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, and its place as an approved bill under the Biden administration, the Willow Project has still garnered some considerable criticism since its inception.
The main issue with the bill, and the one that caused the most significant uproar, is the undoubted impact that such a project will have on the environment. In a world where net-zero is the target for 2050, it’s initiatives like these that are viewed as counter-intuitive and regressive.
Statistics from the Biden administration outright admit this – the project is estimated to produce 9.2 million metric tons of harmful carbon emissions each year it’s running. That’s the equivalent of powering an additional half a million households, or adding 2 million more cars to the road.
That’s the biggest point of contention for many environmental activists and climate-focused groups – this approval, especially following the Glasgow Climate Pact agreed upon in 2019, goes directly against what we’re seeking to invest in for the future.
These emissions could herald an the turning point in terms of the global fight against climate change, and ultimately mean we’re unable to meet the target of limiting worldwide temperature rises to 1.5°C.
We’ve addressed that catastrophic temperature rise and what it could mean in our extensive article on net-zero, but we’ll discuss some of the more immediate environmental impacts of the Willow Bill in our next section.
It also bears mentioning that this was an unexpected turn from an American president who had, until this, been relatively focused on providing a sustainable future for the US and for the planet as a whole.
It’s in stark contrast to previous statements that came from the Biden administration during the initial running campaign, wherein the now-president had promised minimal projects of this nature, as well as no building on reserved land.
Politics is often a fickle landscape, with frequent discrepancies between policies and promises, but the Willow Bill was one of the more divisive policies within that sphere. Members of both the opposing party and Biden’s own decried the decision to proceed with the Willow project, alongside environmental campaigners and groups.
Ultimately, with opinions across the board being wildly different, it could be argued that Biden’s Willow Bill may prove to be one of the more polarising policies in recent political and environmental memory.
It’s as yet unknown exactly how much of an environmental impact that the Willow Bill could have, but initial projections and estimates aren’t positive. We’ve touched on this already, but a few of the standout points from the Biden administration’s report include:
These three key statistics underpin the bulk of complaints that have been levelled at the Willow Project. They make for grim reading, and with such a large amount of harmful carbon being released into the atmosphere over the lifespan of the project, there’s no denying that the initiative will have untold environmental impacts.
While we don’t yet know how significant these impacts will be, we can speculate with some certainty based on similar projects that have since ended or been curtailed. The release of over 230 million metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere is a key figure that’s bound to stick out due to its magnitude.
It’s difficult to comprehend the sheer scale of such emissions, but the European Commission Report on Emissions (EDGAR) shows that pollution of that size equates the project to a country like Belgium – one single project effectively contributes the same levels of carbon as a major country.
The statistics on the barrels of oil is also quite alarming. Over 600 million barrels are expected to be produced, which is more than the US’s entire current reserves hold, or enough to power the entire country of Italy for over a year.
All of this doesn’t even scratch the surface on how this could impact the indigenous peoples and animals. Alaska is a pristine habitat for many endangered species including caribou and polar bears, and while there are protections in place for key locations like Teshekpuk Lake and the Utukok Uplands, there’s still likely to be considerable disruption.
The fervent hope is that these protections will go some way towards ensuring the biodiversity of Alaska, but unfortunately this is just another area where the future remains uncertain. There are steps you can take to secure your own future, however.
There’s something you can do immediately. If the news of this controversial and potentially damaging Bill has spurred you to make an immediate impact, you can sign the official Change.org petition to ensure your voice is heard, alongside almost 6 million others.
However, you’ll have much more of an impact by implementing your own changes for your business. Net-zero is the overall global target for 2050, and by working alongside the dedicated team here at Tariff, you’ll be able to focus on what’s most important to you while our knowledgeable experts help you adopt cleaner, greener energy.
Our comprehensive service guides your business from its current energy usage, to a much more sustainable and eco-friendly rate, and one that’s best prepared for the future of energy across all sectors and industries.
We take a tailormade approach, getting to know you and your business, as well as what your overall environmental goals and aims are. We believe that a good energy deal needs to be sustainable, and the only way we can do that is by working closely with you to ensure that the deals we find are ideal for your needs.
We’ll then use state-of-the-art technology in IPSUM to measure down to the very last drop how much energy you’re using, and where you’re using the most. It’ll take those readings, and display them in a no-nonsense fashion, allowing you to interpret your data in a simple yet effective way.
Using that, we’ll work tirelessly to ensure that we can identify areas to improve upon in your energy consumption, and put plans in place to ensure you can go from wasteful to savvy in just a few simple steps.
Of course, you’re still likely to be using energy at that point – carbon negative is still very much a pipe dream for many, but net-zero is achievable for all. The way we help you get there is by offsetting any remaining usage with our signature carbon credits.
They’re the most popular way to offset carbon emissions, and are essentially your company placing their faith and trust in environmental projects (such as tree planting) that can then account for the energy you’re continuing to expend.
All of this is part of our comprehensive, all-encompassing service that set out with a single goal in mind – to ensure that the path towards net-zero is as stress-free as possible, and that everyone can achieve it by the 2050 deadline.
To discover more, contact one of our expert operatives today, and we’d be more than happy to get you started on the road to net-zero, and a brighter future for your business and the planet.