Neil Young: Fort McMurray is a wasteland.

Neil Young: ‘Fort McMurray is a wasteland’


Neil Young: Fort McMurray is a wasteland.

Singer comes out swinging against Keystone Pipeline.

OTTAWA – Neil Young is singing a new tune, claiming he’s seen the pipeline and the damage done.

The Canadian music legend has waded into the debate over the Keystone XL pipeline with inflammatory comments that compare Fort McMurray, Alta., to the scene of an atomic bomb strike.

Young declared himself “against the Keystone pipeline in a big way” as he described a recent driving visit to Fort McMurray, home base to northern Alberta’s oil sands development.

“The fact is, Fort McMurray looks like Hiroshima,” Young, 67, said at an event Tuesday in Washington hosted by Democratic Senator Harry Reid and the National Farmers Union.

[quote]Fort McMurray is a wasteland. The Indians up there and the native peoples are dying. The fuel’s all over, there’s fumes everywhere. You can smell it when you get to town.[/quote]

“Fort McMurray is a wasteland. The Indians up there and the native peoples are dying. The fuel’s all over, there’s fumes everywhere. You can smell it when you get to town.”

tarsands industry-kris krüg
Tar Sands infrastructure near Fort McMurray (photo: Kris Krüg)

His comments came the same day that Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver was in the American capital talking up Canadian environmental policy and TransCanada’s Keystone project, which is designed to carry Alberta oil sands bitumen to refineries on the Texas gulf coast.

“This is truly a disaster and America is supporting this,” Young said of the oil sands.

“It’s very unfortunate that this is where we get the majority of our fuel from.”

Oliver, through his office, issued a short email response Tuesday.

“I am a fan of Neil Young’s music,” said the minister.

“But on this matter we disagree because Keystone XL will displace heavy oil from Venezuela, which has the same or higher greenhouse gas emissions, with a stable and secure source of Canadian oil.”

Young’s graphic description of Fort McMurray also left some locals scratching their heads.

“I’ve lived here nine years. I’ve raised my kids here,” said Will Gibson, a spokesman for Syncrude, who related how his morning jog Tuesday included a fox sighting. “It’s a beautiful community.”

Air-quality readings are better than most metropolitan cities, said Gibson.

“I would have loved to give Mr. Young a chance to see the Fort McMurray I know,” he said.

[quote]Young, in his address, likened the jobs that will be created by the $5.4-billion Keystone pipeline project to digging a bottomless pit.[/quote]

Young, in his address, likened the jobs that will be created by the $5.4-billion Keystone pipeline project to digging a bottomless pit.

“I’ve seen a lot of people that would dig a hole that’s so deep that they couldn’t get out of it, and that’s a job too. And I think that’s the jobs that we are talking about there with the Keystone pipeline,” said Young.

Young, who has lived in the United States since his early 20s but remains a Canadian music icon for songs such as Helpless, After the Gold Rush and Heart of Gold, has a long history of wading into politically sensitive territory.

He’s been involved with Farm Aid, an organization to save family farms, for decades.

In 1970 he wrote and recorded a raging ode to four students shot dead by National Guardsmen at Kent State University during protests of the Vietnam War. The song, Ohio, hit the airwaves within three weeks of the shooting, further inflaming an already impassioned U.S. debate.

His songs Southern Man and Alabama, about racism in the American south, prompted a blistering musical riposte from the band Lynyrd Skynyrd, Sweet Home Alabama.

His 1975 song Cortez the Killer was banned in Spain by Gen. Francisco Franco because of its dark depiction of Spanish imperialism.

Young recorded a tribute single in 2001 to the doomed passengers aboard United Airlines Flight 93 following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.

His 2003 album Greendale was a folksy indictment of environmental degradation, government corruption and the news media, and in 2006 his Living With War album took aim at the continuing military morass in Iraq, including the less-than-subtle song, Let’s Impeach the President.

Young said he drove his hybrid 1959 Lincoln Continental, which runs on ethanol and electricity, up to Fort McMurray while traversing the continent from his California home to Washington over the last two and half weeks.

“That’s a long way, I still feel it,” he said of the long detour north.


9 thoughts on “Neil Young: ‘Fort McMurray is a wasteland’

  1. The rejection is not rellay a rejection if the company can repermit. Why was this a stipulation if the Obama administration cares that this pipeline not be built? And why are people ignoring that one is already in service in this country and this tarsands crud is being refined and burned in the U.S. already? And realistically, you won’t solve the climate crisis in part at least until you stop the tarsands. Canada is already negotiating with China to get a pipeline to the Pacific to export it even though it has been vocally protested by indigenous people who are already suffering because of it. So what do we do even if the Keystone XL is not built here? That won’t stop it from being burned and the Boreal Forest from being destroyed. So again, what is the next step? When do we get rellay serious about stopping this? Or is it truly too late to stop this environmental catastrophe?Where was everyone when the tarsands started? I saw Al Gore out here talking about it, I was out here, some others were out here, but nobody listened then. I also signed this (like I have signed a hundred others because I do care) but I know you like other organizations are playing this up for politics too. However, this goes so far beyond one petition. Even if you stop this move by the senate, again after the election the company can repermit and it can be approved then after their environmental review and there will nothing we can do about it. That is why partisan politics will also not solve this crisis.

  2. What next? Let’s bet that suddenly Neil Young will have a tax problem according to CCRA or perhaps a problem at the border with some of his equipment containing ivory in the fret board or some other such nonsense.

    Just watch. Don’t put it past this vindictive and petty federal government.

    The best thing to do? Purchase a ticket to the events even if you can’t go. Then send it to the First Nations community he is doing the concerts for so one of them can attend.

    If Young didn’t have the rock star power that he has to pull people in the feds would not have responded so rapidly. But the feds have lent credence to his charges by responding at all.

  3. I think we would all be very receptive to an actual solution rather than another complaint.
    Mr.Young used planes, trains, cars, trucks and boats to sell vinyl albums(another petroleum product) and grew very wealthy in the he despises the very vehicle he used for his own gain..the irony is suffocating…I guess it was all ok when these practises only happened in other countries..

    On a side note, who cares what a musician thinks about energy solutions?..would you take financial advice from an actor?..get your car fixed by a poet?

    Love the songs Neil, but maybe we should be more concerned with the opinions of biologists and

    1. Neil Young has inspired me to invest countless hours into research on the Fort McMurray tar sands project from many different sources and perspectives. One thing leads to another, until the blackened under belly clearly begins to emerge from the wasteland of propaganda, denial and ignorance. I commend Neil Young for using his celebrity to bring our attention to the enormity of this critical global issue. Owen, get all of the stats. Do the research tirelessly because it matters so much. Would you elect an actor or peanut farmer to be President of the United States? Of course, you would. “Thanks Neil” is so inadequate to express my gratitude for bringing the blinding light of awareness into my world on this issue. I have always loved your music, but what you are doing now is so much more important than anything that has gone before. “Don’t let it bring you down/It’s only castles burning….” I understand.

  4. I moved to Fort McMurray almost 5 years ago from Vancouver Island. Would I rather be living on the Island? Of course. However, Mr. Young’s description of this city is simply not accurate and I’m wondering if he really was here at all.

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