The Biden Administration has given the green light for the oil and gas company Conoco Phillips to drill for at least 600 million barrels of crude oil out of the North Arctic region. The site of the drilling, called the Willow Project, will border communities of the indigenous Inupiat people and will be the largest oil and gas project on public lands.
This project ignores previous promises made by Biden. When campaigning as a presidential candidate in 2020, Biden promised, “No more drilling on federal lands, period.” He also said, “I am completely, totally opposed to drilling in the arctic.” Biden’s presidential campaign relied heavily on these and other promises to transition to clean energy and reduce carbon emissions. But this project will produce twice as much carbon emissions as the amount that Biden said he would reduce. The total amount produced by this project will be 280 million tons of carbon released into the atmosphere over 30 years, or 9.2 million tons (which is equal to the carbon emissions produced by two million cars) of carbon emissions annually. Biden’s promises have amounted to nothing more than a joke.
The drilling will have public health and environmental consequences for the Inupiat in addition to accelerating climate change. Many Inupiat communities already experience higher rates of cancer and other health issues due to their proximity to other oil and gas drilling projects. Inupiat protestors are also concerned about the project’s impact on local wildlife and food insecurity. But how can we expect anything different when the ruling class has never considered our health when it conflicts with their profits? And they have shown they are even less concerned when it is the health of an indigenous community that is at stake.
Despite these consequences, the Biden Administration has given the project a green light after reviewing safety research that was produced by Conoco Phillips itself. Who is behind the decisions made by politicians in the U.S. and around the world about public health and safety and the environment when the very companies whose regulation is in question produce the research that will inform those decisions?
In order to avoid the impending climate catastrophe, the world must transition away from oil and gas. But Biden and Conoco Phillips are showing that they are willing to put the world further at risk for the sake of profits. By giving the go-ahead to the Willow Project, Biden is telling the world that his promises mean nothing compared to the interests of Big Oil. We can save our future, we can change our fate, but to do so we must fight against this capitalist system.