An oil pipeline winds through a northern Alaska forest against a mountain skyline.

Photo: sarkophoto / Getty Images

The US government could decide as soon as this month whether to approve an oil drilling project on Alaska’s North Slope that could generate up to
180 000 barrels of oil daily.

Known as the Willow project, the ConocoPhillips endeavor would be Alaska’s biggest oil field in decades.

The Associated Press (AP) published a primer on the proposed project on 28 February, explaining its history and political battles.

A federal judge at the US District Court of Alaska nullified the US Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) approval of the project in 2021, citing SEI research in determining that BLM neglected to assess foreign greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the project, as required by federal law.

Now, the three drilling sites identified by BLM are causing “substantial concerns” for the US Department of the Interior, according to the AP.

Critics balk at the suggestion that 50% of Willow’s net emissions could be offset, in part by planting more trees in national forests. SEI US Centre Director Michael Lazarus told the AP that reforestation on federal lands was something the government already planned to meet its existing climate goals, a senior scientist at the Stockholm Environment Institute.

“That doesn’t help you meet a reduction goal. It’s absurd,” Lazarus said. “It doesn’t address the fact that we’re increasing global emissions by doing this project. … We’re locking in emissions for 30 years into the future when we should be on a reduction schedule.”