The Biden administration has approved a controversial $8bn (£6bn) drilling project on Alaska’s north slope, which has drawn fierce opposition from environmentalists and some Alaska Native communities, who say it will speed up the climate breakdown and undermine food security.
The ConocoPhillips Willow project will be on of the largest of its kind on US soil, involving drilling for oil and gas at three sites for multiple decades on the 23m-acre National Petroleum Reserve which is owned by the federal government and is the largest tract of undisturbed public land in the US.
It will produce an estimated 576m barrels of oil over 30 years, with a peak of 180,000 barrels of crude a day. This extraction, which ConocoPhillips has said may, ironically, involve refreezing the rapidly thawing Arctic permafrost to stabilize drilling equipment, would create one of the largest “carbon bombs” on US soil, potentially producing more than twice as many emissions than all renewable energy projects on public lands by 2030 would cut combined.
In its decision, the department of interior’s bureau of land management said that the approval “strikes a balance” by allowing ConocoPhillips to use its longstanding leases in the Arctic while also limiting drilling to three sites rather than five, which the company wanted.