Willow Project-2

Protests in the US

By a Correspondent

The Willow Project in Alaska is now one of the points of protest by the environment-conscious people in the US.

US President Joe Biden has recently approved Willow, a huge oil drilling project in Alaska. But environment activists oppose the Willow, a ConocoPhillips’ enterprise. The giant will produce a peak of 180,000 barrels of oil per day, which is roughly 40% of all current oil production in Alaska.

Environment activists claim: The oil project that would unlock an estimated 9.2 million metric tons of CO2 in a year is driven by Big Oil’s greed, and it will cause irreparable damage to the environment, Arctic wildlife, and the nearby communities depending on land. They remind that President Biden, during 2020 campaign, pledged to ban “new oil and gas permitting on public lands and waters.”

There are stakes in the Willow Project in the federal oil reserve roughly the size of Indiana. There is investment, and prospect for future investments.

In this competition of opposite poles, big profit by big oil and weaker power of environment conservation, the powerful wins. So, Ryan Lance, chief executive of the ConocoPhillips, said in a statement: “This is the right decision for Alaska and our nation.” Go with it, if it is the right decision, as the claim has been made.

Capital claims, whether it is exploiting labour or nature, or the both, capital’s interest is nation’s interest, region’s interest, people’s interest. Capital does not consider anything other than profit, expansion. Even, it endangers its life by jumping on a burning furnace if it assumes higher profit is available somewhere in that furnace. Marx told this fact, which is widely quoted, and Marx’s finding has not been proved wrong.

In the Willow in the petroleum-rich North Slope of Alaska, it will talk about benefits from job creation, infrastructure build up, and other revenues that will help Alaska’s economy.

Under the oil project, three drill sites, a central processing facility, an operations centre, hundreds of miles of gravel and ice roads, pipelines, air strip, and other infrastructure will press the pristine tundra and wetlands. Moreover, chillers would be used to re-freeze the thawing permafrost so that ground turns stable enough for continuing drilling. The area is home to polar bears, a threatened species, musk oxen, caribou, and hundreds of thousands of migratory birds. Two caribou herds –the Western Arctic and the Teshekpuk Lake herds–calve and migrate through the area and are a vital subsistence resource for Alaska Native communities in northern and western Alaska.

For the oil’s profit-journey, the payment will be made, seemingly, by the nature, but, ultimately by the people, as people collectively depend on nature, unspoiled nature for 1.5% of total US oil production. The North Slope is like an economic lifeline for the Indigenous people in the region, who will get hurt while Big Oil will reap profit. To have that profit, the oil giant would produce the equivalent of more than 263 million tons (239 metric tons) of GHG over the project’s 30-year life span. That is also equal to the combined emissions from 1.7 million passenger cars over the same time period.

Not only Alaska, the planet earth will have to pay for profit of the Big Oil.

Together with Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Earthjustice has filed a lawsuit on behalf of conservation groups to stop the Willow Project. Trustees for Alaska has also filed another lawsuit. That was on behalf of Sovereign Inupiat for a Living Arctic and a number of conservation groups. It is, actually, a plea of around 5.6 million people.

The project carries a consensus among the powers that govern the land–the Trump administration first approved the project in 2020. Now, the Biden administration goes with it. No problem between the Republican and Democratic administrations with the nature and life destroying project. It is the consensus among capital’s factions.

This is a tale of not only from the US, but a tale from all lands dominated by exploiting capital. The Global South carries many similar projects. The question that yet goes unanswered is people’s initiative to resist capital’s exploiting, destroying, journey.


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Vol 55, No. 43, April 23 - 29, 2023