US President Joe Biden yesterday approved a major oil and gas project in Alaska despite strong opposition from environmental activists.

The company behind the Willow project, ConocoPhillips, says it will create local investment and thousands of jobs.

But the £6.6billion proposal faced a torrent of online activism in recent weeks, particularly among youth activists on TikTok.

Opponents argued it should be halted over its climate and wildlife impacts.

Located on Alaska's remote North Slope, it is the largest oil development in the region for decades and could produce up to 180,000 barrels of oil a day.

According to US Bureau of Land Management estimates, that means it will generate up to 278million metric tonnes of CO2e over its 30-year lifetime - the equivalent of adding two million cars to US roads every year. CO2e is a unit used to express the climate impact of all greenhouse gases together, as if they were all emitted as carbon dioxide.


Monday's approval comes one day after the Biden administration imposed limits on oil and gas drilling in 16million acres of Alaska and the Arctic Ocean - a compromise of sorts with anti-Willow activists.

The BBC says environmentalists had argued Willow is inconsistent with President Biden's pledges to lead on climate action.

More than one million letters of protest were written to the White House, and a petition calling for Willow to be halted drew more than three million signatures.

"It's the wrong move and will be a disaster for wildlife, lands, communities, and our climate," environmental charity Sierra Club said.

Sonny Ahk, a young Inuipat activist from Alaska who campaigned against Willow, said the development would "lock in Arctic oil and gas extraction for another 30 years and catalyse future oil expansion in the Arctic".

"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," he said.

Lawmakers support

But all three lawmakers who represent Alaska in Congress, including one Democrat, pushed for the project's approval, touting it as a much-needed investment in the region's communities.

They also argued it would help boost domestic energy production and lessen the country's reliance on foreign oil.

"This was the right decision for Alaska and our nation," added ConocoPhillips CEO Ryan Lance on Monday.

The US energy giant is already Alaska's largest crude oil producer.

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