Biden administration approves Willow oil project in Alaska
The Biden administration announced Monday it will approve ConocoPhillips' Willow oil project located on a portion of Alaska's North Slope that is one of the last unspoiled wilderness areas in America.
Why it matters: The project, which is estimated to produce about 576 million barrels of oil over 30 years, is seen as a key test of Biden's climate commitments, as well as his energy priorities.
The big picture: The administration is not approving the entire project that ConocoPhillips originally asked for, which was for five well pads.
- Instead, the go-ahead is being given for three pads, which will slightly reduce the project's emissions footprint and cut its impact on the sensitive ecosystems in the region.
- The approval also relinquishes ConocoPhillips' land rights to about 68,000 acres in that area.
- The Department of Interior's environmental analysis found the big new project would create annual emissions that equate to less than 1 percent of total U.S. annual emissions in 2019, the analysis found.
- The total annual emissions from the project would be equivalent to the emissions from 1.2 coal-fired power plants per year, the environmental analysis found.
Between the lines: The total indirect emissions from the project, which refers to the emissions generated by burning the oil for energy, would amount to about 239 million metric tons of CO2-equivalent, the Interior Department's record of decision issued Monday states.
Yes, but: Its approval comes as numerous studies show that in order to meet global climate goals, emissions from fossil fuels must rapidly decline.
- The environmental analysis makes clear that the project would contribute to climate change.
Threat level: Interior's analysis details the sweeping changes global warming is having on the area where Willow would be built, which is one of the fastest-warming locations on Earth.
- It even includes the possibility that permafrost thaw may pose challenges for project infrastructure, while also accelerating the release of greenhouse gases.
Go deeper: Biden's Arctic oil drama
Editor's note: This story has been updated to include new information on the indirect emissions from the project.