Biden’s Climate Tradeoff: Weighing the Willow Project’s Economic Benefits vs. Environmental Impacts

Recently, President Biden has come under criticism from environmental groups for considering support for the Willow Project, a $6 billion new oil and gas drilling project that would take place in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska.[0] The project, which is led by ConocoPhillips, is estimated to produce 180,000 barrels of oil per day and generate between $8 billion and $17 billion in revenue.[1]

At the S&P Global's 2023 CERAWeek energy conference in Houston, Sullivan urged President Biden's administration to approve the project, citing the potential economic benefits it would bring to Alaska Natives.[2]

However, the Biden administration is facing strong pushback from activists and climate-focused Democratic lawmakers who insist that the project goes against Biden’s promise to end new oil drilling on federal land and would lead to significant climate impacts. Environmental reviews suggest that the project would generate roughly 9.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide a year, the equivalent of driving nearly 2 million gas-powered cars.[3]

Activists report that due to the #StopWillow movement gaining traction on social media, over one million letters have been sent to the White House, with two online petitions amassing 2.9 million and 850,000 signatures respectively.[4] The Willow project has also been dubbed a potential carbon bomb because of the 278 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions it would generate over its potential three-decade lifespan.[5]

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that “no final decisions have been made” on the project.[6] “President Biden is delivering on the most aggressive climate agenda of any U.S. president in history and spurring an unprecedented expansion of clean energy,” she said.[2]

Meanwhile, Alaska’s congressional delegation, including Democratic Rep. Mary Peltola and moderate Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, have pushed hard for approval, arguing the project will be developed in an environmentally responsible way and is critical for Alaska’s economy.[7]

The climate tradeoff at heart of one of Biden’s biggest climate decisions is becoming increasingly clear.[8] Activists are urging the Biden administration to reject the project, while proponents are citing the potential economic benefits it could bring. Ultimately, the president’s decision will have far-reaching implications for the future of our climate.

0. “ICYMI: At CERAWeek, Sullivan Says Willow Project Aligns with Biden's Priorities” Senator Dan Sullivan, 8 Mar. 2023,

1. “ConocoPhillips Willow project decision to come this week, CEO says – Houston Business Journal” The Business Journals, 7 Mar. 2023,

2. “Biden expected to approve enormous oil drilling project in blow to climate activists: ‘Complete betrayal'” Fox News, 11 Mar. 2023,

3. “Hashtag #StopWillow goes viral as Biden deliberates Alaska drilling” The Washington Post, 7 Mar. 2023,

4. “#StopWillow is taking TikTok by storm. Can it actually work?” CNN, 5 Mar. 2023,

5. “Biden Officials Back Alaska Oil Project Scorned as Carbon Bomb” Yahoo Finance, 11 Mar. 2023,

6. “Biden denies reports that Alaska oil drilling project has been approved” The Guardian US, 11 Mar. 2023,

7. “White House denies reports Biden has decided to sign off on controversial Alaska oil project” The Hill, 11 Mar. 2023,

8. “Climate Hawks win! For now… Biden admin puts off decision on climate-killing Willow arctic oil-drilling” Red, Green, and Blue, 9 Mar. 2023,

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