But the Willow project has faced strong opposition from environmental activists over its climate and wildlife impacts.
That statement helped him garner support from green Democrats and climate campaigners, unsure about Biden’s record on this issue.
However, that campaign promise was broken last year when the administration announced plans to sell drilling leases under pressure from the courts.
The White House will likely say that the role of the courts has also influenced the Willow decision.
Oil company ConocoPhillips has held the lease since 1999 and would have had a strong case to appeal if their plans had been turned down.
The International Energy Agency has baldly stated that if the world wants to keep the rise in global temperatures under 1.5C, no new oil or gas drilling can go ahead.
So, in an effort to limit the impact of the Willow approval, the White House has outlined new bans on oil and gas leasing in the Arctic Ocean and across Alaska.
Most environmentalists aren’t buying this trade-off.
Willow is also a political decision.
Last year, in response to the Ukraine war, the White House authorised the release of millions of barrels from the US strategic petroleum reserve. This helped push down prices at the pump.
With a presidential election in 18 months, Mr Biden is keen to reinforce his reputation as a moderate.
Approving a reduced version of the original Willow plan will be sold as underlining the President’s ability to forge compromises across political divides.
Mr Biden’s supporters argue that the cut-down project will see measures put in place to offset some of the extra emissions by planting trees, and the US target of curbing CO2 by 52% below 2005 levels would still be achieved.
But the decision is fraught with political danger.
Willow saw unprecedented opposition on social media, drawing over three million signatures on a petition against the project.
- Climate change
- United States
- Joe Biden