WINNIPEG — Rocker Neil Young took aim at the proposed Keystone XL pipeline Thursday on his concert tour condemning the Alberta oilsands, while energy executives, politicians and even a fellow musician shot back that he is irresponsible and uninformed.
Young told a news conference ahead of his Winnipeg concert that the TransCanada pipeline, which would carry oilsands bitumen from Alberta to Texas refineries, makes no sense since the oil would be sent to China — a country he called one of the dirtiest on Earth.
“People don’t understand this oil is not for Canada,” Young said. “A couple of months ago, Beijing had 30 times the World Health Organization’s approved level of pollutants and dangerous substances in the air — 30 times that — and we’re sending them oil.
“I don’t feel really good about that.”
TransCanada (TSX:TRP) quickly replied that the pipeline would be a supply line for U.S. refineries and not an export pipeline. Company spokesman Shawn Howard said the vast majority of exported oilsands oil is used in gasoline, diesel fuel and other North American products.
“It’s unfortunate that people like Mr. Young want to mislead people about where Canadian oil goes and the benefits it creates,” he said in an emailed statement.
“It has helped him create records and CDs, allows his tour buses to run, airplanes to fly, (allows) the manufacturing of high-tech equipment and guitar picks needed to entertain his audiences.”
Young is on a four-city Canadian tour to support the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation that lives downstream from the oilsands. The band has filed a lawsuit to try to protect its traditional territory from further industrialization.
Since he kicked off the tour in Toronto on Sunday, the iconic musician has traded shots with the Prime Minister’s Office and oil executives who say Young doesn’t understand the oilsands or their economic benefit.
Even fellow Canadian musician Jim Cuddy from Blue Rodeo called Young’s comparison of the oilsands with Hiroshima extreme.
“He’s grossly exaggerating,” Cuddy told Saskatchewan-based Missinipi Broadcasting Corp. “Nobody can say that any kind of open-pit mining — whether it’s oil, shale or whatever — is beautiful,” he said.
“I’m not sure this is about esthetics. It’s about clean water, clean air and economics.”
However, Cuddy, who was to play a concert in Fort McMurray on Thursday night, also suggested that Young has triggered a national discussion about the oilsands that is long overdue.
“You have to appreciate that Neil in his own extreme, crazy way has begun a dialogue that we have to have in this country.”