President of the United States, Joe Biden (Picture: Maryland GovPics)

Joe Biden has proven that he won’t be the “green” US president after throwing his support behind the new Willow oil drilling project in Alaska. It’s the £4.95 billion project that corporation ConocoPhillips hopes will produce 180,000 barrels of oil a day. 

The company plans to build over 200 wells, 386 miles of pipelines, one or two airstrips and a new central processing facility. The project could potentially pump out 278 million tonnes of greenhouse gases in around 30 years. 

This will likely devastate the region’s wildlife, including caribou, polar bears and bowhead whales. Construction could also damage the health of those living in the nearby city of Nuiqsut, who will be exposed to increased pollution levels. 

The federal government calculated the project would cause at least £19.8 billion in climate-related damages—quadruple what the project will cost to build. Despite the risks, all three members of Congress who represent Alaska voted in support of Willow, including Democrat Mary Peltola. Peltola and others have tried to justify the project by saying that it will bring much needed economic benefits and jobs to a poor region. 

The president of the Alaska Federation of Natives, Julie Kitka, wrote to the Secretary of the Interior, Deb Haaland, last year to say that Willow could “jumpstart our economy with thousands of jobs and environmental ­stewardship for years.” But there are many others who say Willow will not benefit ordinary people. 

The Sovereign Inuipat for a Living Arctic group said it won’t lead to more jobs for those living in the region. The group argued that the cost to health and the environment greatly outweighs the amount of revenue Willow and ConocoPhillips will bring to the region. 

Sonny Ahk, an anti-Willow, Inuipat activist from Alaska, said the project would “lock in Arctic oil and gas extraction for another 30 years and catalyse future oil expansion in the Arctic”. He added, “While out-of-state executives take in record ­profits, local residents are left to contend with the detrimental impacts of being surrounded by massive drilling ­operations.”

And those that live in the area have already suffered because of ConocoPhillips and projects like Willow. Drilling by ConocoPhillips in the Alpine Fields led to an alarming spike in asthma and other respiratory conditions in the 1990s. 

Rosemary Ahtuangaruak, a community health aid ­professional, explained, “I had to start staying up all night to help people breathe. When you hold those little babies, and you see those sick little eyes, and you’re ­fighting for them to breathe, you get very active in the ­process of questioning what’s happening to our village.”

If the project goes ahead, ConocoPhillips will again be allowed to make billions in profit as they destroy the planet and wreck people’s health. 

In the face of widespread anger about Willow, Biden was also forced to concede that his government would be taking new steps to limit drilling in the Arctic Ocean. But even “limiting” ­drilling is a step down from what Biden promised when he said, “No more drilling on federal land, period” when he ran for president. 

In the two years since he got into power Biden has approved more than 6,430 licences for oil and gas ­drilling. That’s more approvals than former president Donald Trump’s 6,172 in a similar two-year period. 

This must be a lesson that the Democrats will not stand up for people or the planet, but will continue to help line the pockets of the fossil fuel industry. Climate activists should protest, block and disrupt the construction of Willow in every way they can. 

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