The Willow Project: Oil Drilling Project is Approved in Alaska


Animals are a crucial part of Earth, with thousands of species around the world. The Willow Project is a controversial issue that will affect Alaska’s communities and their wildlife. It is an oil drilling project with the intent to extract crude oil from beneath the ground, in hopes of using it to create gasoline. This was approved by Joe Biden, president of the United States. People argue that this project is wrong, immoral, and completely unfair regarding the extensive animal population in Alaska. 

The planned extraction of 576 million barrels of oil will cause huge CO2 emissions, creating a rise in temperature. This would be devastating for the snowy environment there, and would harm the living conditions of native animals. 

“Obviously, I don’t think it’s a good idea,” AP Environmental Science teacher Ms. Pasarella said, “because of the massive habitat destruction and habitat fragmentation it’s going to cause. Especially in a place like Alaska, it’s one of the few places in our country where we have native landscape that’s been untouched.”

 The mining that needs to be conducted in order to extract oil is also not good for the environment, according to Ms. Pasarella.

“The specific type of mining they do for oil extraction is called hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking,” Ms. Pasarella said. “They’re taking this mixture of water and different chemicals and injecting it into the rock, to crack the rock, to pressurize it, to let the oil come out.  So not only are we breaking the rock, but we’re also injecting these chemicals into possibly our water supply, and the water supply of the organisms.”

In order for fracking to occur, Ms. Pasarella also discussed how the infrastructure to drill on the land would be disruptive to the natural environment.

“Something that’s also forgotten is not just the fracking and the drilling, but in order to drill for oil, there is wide infrastructure that’s required,” Ms. Pasarella said.  “They’re basically out in the middle of nowhere in Alaska, so how are their trucks going to get there? They need to build roads, they need to build power lines to go to this area, to have this whole operation running. So by building the roads, they’re destroying another area of habitat. We’re fragmenting it from other areas.”

Ms. Pasarella claims that drilling for the oil “isn’t worth it,” and that “even small things can help with protesting this oil operation,” like online petitions and supporting the groups that are against this bill, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, Eco Justice, and others. The bill was in fact approved by Joe Biden and his administration on March 13, 2023.

“I think they could’ve at least figured out a way to pause it,” stated Ms. Pasarella said, “and to let it sit for another year. Just hold it off for a little bit longer.”

Due to the failed postponement of the project, the communities in Alaska will have their say on it now. Some people may be unsettled about their homeland being destroyed by the drilling, while others think that it is helpful since it would boost their economy due to the amount of people employed to work for this project. It would create about 2,500 construction jobs and approximately 300 permanent jobs. 

However, Ms. Pasarella continued with her stance on the topic, discussing how people who think the Willow Project is aiding the community are short sighted.  She explained how the lives of animals would be affected, and how their rights would be rescinded. 

“They are living on this planet as well as us, and even the smallest of animals, we may not realize it, but we depend on them,” Ms. Pasarella added.  “And if you think, ‘I’m just gonna do this one little thing,’ the problem is, it’s not just one little thing. It causes a ripple effect, it cascades throughout all trophic levels across the food web, and you’re going to see issues down the line.”

Ms. Pasarella suggests that a better solution would be to invest more funds into renewable energy sources so that the oil wouldn’t be needed at all.

“I think their priorities are different,” Ms. Pasarella said, speaking about the priorities of the government. “The problem is that we’re going to see in 20 years, in 50 years, in 100 years, not only are we going to run out of fossil fuels, we’re going to run out of natural ecosystems, and we rely on them so much.” 

To add onto her thoughts, Grace Chen, the co-president of the Animal Rights Club, shared her opinion on the project. 

“I feel like it’s really scary and sad,” Chen said. “It goes to show how the people in power, the people who have control care more about the economy than the lives of people and the Earth. I feel that animals deserve to have rights because as humans and animals, we have to live together in harmony. These animals deserve to have their own home as much as we do.”

Some might argue that the project is beneficial to others. They say that it will provide more job opportunities, and lessen the country’s need for foreign oil. Due to this, the president was urged to make a decision and decided to commit to the project.

However, the project will still have a huge impact on the environment and the health of people and animals there.  It is taking place in the National Petroleum Reserve, and many are concerned over the townspeople and animals that reside there.

“Animals deserve to have rights because they have feelings,” Co-President of the Animal Rights Club Kerry Weng said.  “They have a sense of self, just like us humans.  We ourselves are animals too, and to not respect animal’s rights is specious.”

Vice President of the Animal Rights Club, Micheal An, also discussed how the project would harm the animals in this environment.

“We’re imposing this change on them that was never supposed to happen and that’s extremely unfair,” An said. “The Willow Project is explicitly all about drastic changes in the environment in a very rapid amount of time, for a quick profit, so the animals – the short answer is that they can’t react.” 

“I think there will be a lot of different unseen consequences,” An said, “because even removing a single species from our habitat can have a chain reaction to everyone who depends on that species.”