A slippery slope

The Willow Project and potential consequences

Recently in the news and on social media, you may have seen mentions or hashtags that  say “stop the Willow project” or #stopwillow. It is a very controversial issue that has recently arisen due to the nature of the project. 

“The Willow Project, proposed by ConocoPhillips, is a massive and decades-long oil drilling venture on Alaska’s North Slope that the state’s lawmakers say will create jobs and boost domestic energy production. Its supporters say Willow could be a much-needed new source of revenue for the region,”  an article from CNN.com stated

This oil venture poses serious risks for the natural environment in Alaska and even the world. According to the article; “the project would generate enough oil to release 9.2 million metric tons of planet-warming carbon pollution a year – equivalent to adding 2 million gas-powered cars to the roads.” This would be a very large carbon footprint on the world and would potentially damage the environment surrounding the pipeline. 

The pipeline would be constructed on Alaska’s North Slope, which is home to several different species of endangered animals with critical habitat in Alaska. For example, the arctic ringed seal is a critically endangered animal that makes its home in the Chukchi and Beaufort Sea, both which come directly in contact with Alaska’s North Slope Borough. This means any marine oil or gas spills would have the potential to push this animal further into endangerment. This is the case for other animals as well, including several different species of endangered whales. 

The Willow project, while high risk, is equally high in reward if successful. There are many Alaska natives who believe this project would be beneficial, claiming that the project would bring much needed economic growth in the form of jobs and revenue to the area. In addition to this, the CNN article also quoted Nagruk Harcharek, president of the group Voice of the Arctic Iñupiat. 

“Harcharek also said he doesn’t believe the project would negatively affect subsistence hunting for animals, including whale and caribou,” the CNN article stated. 

While this may be true, there is no telling what types of problems this pipeline may encounter, especially the very real issue of releasing large amounts of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere every single year. While this may not seem like an issue short-term, there are always consequences to our decisions and sooner or later these large emissions will catch up to us.