In his recent State of the Union address, President Biden acknowledged the “existential threat” posed by climate change, citing an obligation to our children and grandchildren to confront it. Now, his administration is about to test its fidelity to that obligation. It will soon decide whether to approve a major drilling project in Alaska that could pump 280 million tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, derailing the administration’s ability to meet its own climate commitments.
The Biden administration has set the most ambitious climate agenda in U.S. history, pledging to more than halve U.S. emissions from 2005 levels by 2030. Thanks to watershed legislation, including the Inflation Reduction Act, we have our last, best chance to build a clean economy before it is too late.
Yet, despite scientific consensus urging us to cut emissions as much as possible, we find ourselves approving projects that will dig our climate hole deeper. In 2021, this administration made history by offering the largest offshore oil and gas lease sale ever in the Gulf of Mexico. It continues to open public land and waters to new drilling, all despite the president’s campaign promise of “no more drilling on federal lands, period.” The possibility that it will greenlight ConocoPhillips’s Willow Project in Alaska threatens to render that promise hollow.
If approved, Willow would rank among the worst sources of pollution in the country. Its emissions would exceed those of any other planned project on federal lands. To put the wreckage in perspective, Willow could produce more than twice as much emissions than the administration’s renewable energy projects on public lands by 2030 would cut combined. Last year, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland called those renewable projects part of “a clean energy revolution.” This year, her department is poised to enable a counterrevolution twice the size, one that would cut miles of pipelines and roads into fragile wild lands. [Continue reading…]