DBHS Student Publication.

The Bull's Eye

DBHS Student Publication.

The Bull's Eye

DBHS Student Publication.

The Bull's Eye

The Busteed Speed: Willow Project: When perfect becomes the enemy of good

#stopwillowproject exploded on TikTok in March, depicting heart wrenching images of starving polar bears and apocalyptic models of rising sea levels. All of these videos screamed the same urgent message: stop Arctic oil drilling. 

Despite millions of people united against drilling leases in Alaska, the Willow project, an oil and gas development project on federal lands, was approved for drilling only a month later. With nowhere else to direct their outrage and frustration, the climate conscious began directing blame toward the White House. I used to be among these people, believing that Biden had compromised his values under the pressures of Big Oil. 

With Biden’s election in 2020, I had allowed myself to hope for a clean slate; to hope for an environment less tainted by economic greed. But seeing him approve such an environmentally detrimental project–especially after campaigning on the promise of “no new drilling on federal lands, period”–felt like a stab to the back. Why, I thought, is Biden so narrow minded, prioritizing momentary monetary interests over our futures?

Unfortunately, the world we live in is not so simple, nor so idyllic. It was only this year when we became aware of the Willow Project’s debilitating environmental impacts, yet it was proposed by oil producer ConocoPhillips in 2017 and had already been approved by Trump in 2020. Even if the Biden administration had rejected the project, doing so would have resulted in a lawsuit that his administration would most likely have lost. Legally, Biden’s hands were tied.

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This is not to say I am content with the 575 million barrels of crude oil the Willow Project is set to extract over the next 30 years. Obviously, such a setback to reducing carbon emissions and preserving biodiversity is something to be mourned. 

Yet, in the political scheme of things, Biden’s decisiveness on the issue—approving the project while reducing the requested five drilling pads to three—led to the best possible outcome. Especially with the presidential election coming around the corner, prolonging the process through a financially costly legal battle might have allowed politicians who don’t even believe in climate change to swoop into the White House and expand drilling beyond the boundaries of the Willow Project. 

To Biden’s credit, he has also recently implemented a series of regulations to protect federal oil-rich land even after his presidency. On Wednesday, the administration announced that they would ban drilling in 13 million acres of untouched land in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska and cancel all seven outstanding Trump-era oil drilling leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Even beyond Alaska, Biden has stuck to his environmentalist values, protecting one million acres of land near the Grand Canyon from uranium mining by designating it as a new national monument.

All of this to say that every decision has its trade-off. Was it worth it to approve the Willow Project so that even more land could be protected from future exploitation? For me, it’s an unsatisfying “yes.”

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About the Contributor
Jianlan Busteed, Editor-In-Chief

Pronouns: she/her Years on staff: 3 Instagram: @jianlan.b Life Motto: LOL (lots of love) Unique thing about yourself: i like eating and sleeping Silliest childhood fear: toilet witches attacking me while i'm doing my business Celebrity crush: ryan gosling as ken Dream job: beach Job you would be terrible at: hairdresser (from experience) Favorite movie/show/video game/etc: Breaking Bad Favorite artist/genre/song/album: Billy Joel and Sarah Kinsley and Conan Gray Most embarrassing thing that's ever happened to you: peeing in the middle of the playground (i think about it all the time)

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