Willow windfall: A controversial Alaskan oil project has got the green light

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Windfall in the Willow

On Monday, Joe Biden greenlit the Willow oil drilling project — a proposal to drill at 3 sites in Alaska’s vast North Slope region.

At peak production, the project is anticipated to supply 180,000 barrels of crude oil per day, roughly 1.5% of total US oil production. The proposal is popular with local officials, who are eager to secure the ~2,500 new jobs, as well as most of the Indigenous groups in the area.

Environmental activists, however, are less enthused. Condemnation from climate groups has poured in, and online petitions to cancel the project have been widely shared on social media, with one reaching nearly 4 million signatures. By the government’s own calculations the project is set to emit the equivalent of 9.2 million metric tons of carbon pollution annually, equivalent to adding 2 million gas-powered cars to the road each year.

Petrol heads

The Willow project is a perfect microcosm of the wider debate in America about energy security — an argument that’s only intensified in the wake of last year’s energy crisis and oil price spikes.

For years domestic production has increased in a bid to reduce American reliance on imports and… it’s worked. The US is by far the biggest consumer andproducer of oil in the world, even becoming a net exporter of petroleum products in the last two years. Ensuring energy security today, while meeting the global climate goals of the future, is likely to be a core issue in the 2024 election.

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