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Neil Young adds Keystone XL pipeline to his protest tour

TransCanada rebutts latest salvo from the rocker that Keystone oil would go to “dirtiest” country on earth (China).


Rocker Neil Young criticized sending oil to China from the proposed keystone pipeline, but TransCanada said the oil would be destined for use in North America.

WINNIPEG — Rocker Neil Young took aim at the proposed Keystone XL pipeline on Jan. 16 during his concert tour condemning the Alberta oil sands, 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 oil sands 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 quickly replied that the pipeline would be a supply line for US refineries and not an export pipeline. Company spokesman Shawn Howard said the vast majority of exported oil sands 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 oil sands. The band has filed a lawsuit to try to protect its traditional territory from further industrialization.

Since he kicked off the tour, the iconic musician has traded shots with the Prime Minister’s Office and oil executives who say Young doesn’t understand the oil sands or their economic benefit.

Even fellow Canadian musician Jim Cuddy from Blue Rodeo called Young’s comparison of the oil sands 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, also suggested that Young has triggered a national discussion about the oil sands 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.”

Young continued his offensive undeterred.

“We can preserve what we have so that we can say we did the right thing. If we don’t, it’s just going to look like the moon in Alberta,” he said. “It is like a war zone, a disaster area from war, what’s happened up there.”

Both the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and Shell Canada held a news conference in Calgary to rebut Young’s claims. It is the approval Shell has received for its Jackpine mine expansion that the Athabasca Chipewyan are fighting.

Association president Dave Collyer said Young’s statements “demonstrate pretty consistently a lack of understanding of the oil sands” and the economic benefits.

“I think it’s fair to say the misrepresentations being made on the tour are quite irresponsible,” he said. “More importantly, they do a disservice to the First Nations he is ostensibly trying to help, to the many individuals whose livelihoods depend on oil sands activity and … to Canadians who we believe generally benefit very greatly from oil sands development.”

Shell vice-president Stephanie Sterling said the world may one day rely solely on renewable fuel sources, but for now oil provides an “affordable” and “accessible” energy source.

© 2014 The Canadian Press