Biden was right to approve the Willow Project

In approving the use of Alaskan lands, Biden improves American lives


Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Joe Biden speaks at a 2019 rally.

Conor Metzger, Staff Columnist

It seems that our president has done something so unexpected. So out of the blue. Something so preposterous, unimaginable and unprecedented. President Joe Biden has decided to perform an act that is actually helpful in the short term to Americans. While this can be hard to see if you get bogged down in environmental concerns, the recently approved Willow Project could potentially have tremendous upside. 

For one, Biden is answering a concern shared by many after the recent gas price uptick that came in part from the Russia-Ukraine conflict. During the past summer, the price of gas rose to an all-time high with a nationwide average of $5 per gallon, leading people to choose between gas and groceries while also really questioning our reliance on foreign oil. It was also not a good look for Biden when he had to go begging Saudi Arabia for help after publicly condemning their practices. 

This experience led many to question why it is we have to look so far away for fuel when there is a plethora of oil in our own backyard. Oil that we can obtain with much safer methods (both for workers and the environment) and in a more cost-effective way than some of our European counterparts can.

Americans need gas, and they need gas that they can afford.

Before I go further into this, keep in mind that, for the majority of Americans, gas-powered vehicles are the only choice. You cannot be expected to ride a bike every day to work in areas more spread out or with more varying weather patterns. Electric vehicles are also still not near being normative in smaller towns where charging stations are scarce. Therefore, Americans need gas, and they need gas that they can afford. So, Biden’s approval of the Willow Project should be seen as a step toward helping Americans in ways that matter. 

I can understand the environmental concerns surrounding the Willow Project, but we have to be realistic. Every month it seems the UN releases a report saying we won’t last another five years until the next report pushes back that timetable. With every report there comes a wave of climate activists arguing for a cut in emissions without realizing that the process of fighting climate change is a slow one with some victories and some tactical retreats. 

If you then look at the actual environmental impacts of the project, you will see that even this is not a full-on setback, rather it is just a drop in the bucket combined with what we are already doing. Right now, the total world greenhouse gas emissions per year are 49.76 billion tons. The projected emissions from the Willow Project would be 278 million tons over 30 years, so a little above 9 million tons a year. This then means it would equal a little less than 2% of the emissions we are already producing, keeping in mind that early estimates of projects like these are usually inflated since they fail to take into account emissions-cutting technology that can be developed over the course of the project. Even looking at the micro-environmental response, the project is supported by a majority of the surrounding Alaskan community and the Indigenous population because it will create jobs and bolster the surrounding economy. Just look at what happened in West Virginia with poverty rising in recent years due to a move from coal production and a lack of commitment from the government to invest in transferring the job market to a new sector. If climate activists want us to move toward a better future, they can’t expect a halt on key factors of the economy and an immediate transfer to alternative energy that is not feasible to replace our current ones. 

There is not a single alternative energy source that would meet the needs of our society at large. Almost all come with their own problems and issues with the only legitimate alternative being nuclear power — an energy source with its own complex history and critics. 

So while it is not a step in the right direction in the long run, for the short run, Biden has made the right decision. He has chosen to help Americans with a problem that is ever-present in their daily lives. This method does not really set back the current climate agenda but rather is a realistic path for a short-term win, which we need right now as we head toward a massive string of bank failures and a tumultuous election. 

Victories are rarely ever cut and dried, especially with an issue like climate change, where we are still learning new things every day.