Neil Young: Alberta Tar Sands fields ‘Look like Hiroshima’ (Chamberlain)

Jacob Chamberlain writes at

Fresh off a trip to Canada's tar sands oil fields in Alberta, famed singer Neil Young spoke out at a conference in Washington, DC on Monday against the controversial oil extraction and its export through the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, calling Fort McMurray, the town nearest Alberta's vast tar sands, a "wasteland."

"This is truly a disaster," said Young, painting a dire picture in which the people, land and animals of the region are greatly suffering.

“The fuel’s all over – the fumes everywhere – you can smell it when you get to town," Young recalled. "The closest place to Fort McMurray that is doing the tar sands work is 25 or 30 miles out of town and you can taste it when you get to Fort McMurray. People are sick. People are dying of cancer because of this. All the First Nations people up there are threatened by this.”

“Yeah it’s going to put a lot of people to work," Young said of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which is slated to transport the excavated tar sands to export terminals in Texas and Louisiana. "I’ve heard that, and 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,” he said.

“The fact is, Fort McMurray looks like Hiroshima,” said Young. “Fort McMurray is a wasteland. … All of the First Nations people up there are threatened by this. Their food supply is wasted. Their treaties are no good. They have a right to live on the land that they always did but there's no land left that they can live on. All the animals are dying. This is truly a disaster.”

“Neil Young is speaking for all of us fighting to stop the Keystone XL,” Jane Kleeb, Executive Director of Bold Nebraska, a coalition of landowners and others opposed to the $5.3-billion Keystone XL pipeline, told the Globe and Mail.  “When you see the pollution already caused by the reckless expansion of tar sands, you only have one choice and that is to act.”



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6 Responses

  1. Well, I’m actually up in Fort McMurray right now and its like a normal city. Not polluted at all. No smells etc.

    Yes, the production region to the north is harsh. But no worse than mining or any other extraction zone, anywhere in the world.

    We need this area for the next 10 to 15 years, or the cities will be in trouble. Doesn’t that make sense?

  2. Neil must have made a wrong turn and ended up in Detroit. Fort McMurray is actually a pretty nice town sporting some of the world’s largest mosquitoes.

  3. I read recently an article at saying that Bill McKibben either knowingly or unknowingly uses “stop Keystone XL!” as a decoy to keep climate change activists wasting their time and energy and failing to think about how to lower use of carbon fuels in general, including thinking about how to force the issue of political-economic changes to make it possible. And the Obama Administration cleverly delays decision on Keystone XL to keep the activists thinking they are achieving something and to keep rope-a-doping them.

    Here is an article from Counterpunch about how the Obama Administration works with the oil industry to green-light and speed-up construction of a whole webwork of pipelines that will bypass the whole “Keystone Northern Half” planned pipeline area. Once the whole pipeline workaround network is completely built, all the oil that would have moved through Keystone XL Northern Half will move through these other pipelines anyway. Obama will then pretend to surrender on Keystone XL after it doesn’t matter anyway, and McKibben and the 350 group will be permitted to think they have won something. Here is the link.
    link to

  4. Are the commenters above saying “it’s not so bad up here in Ft. McMurray, except for the cute giant mosquitoes”, link to, maybe members of the local Chamber of Commerce and/or maybe have a financial interest (“We need this area for the next 10 to 15 years, or the cities will be in trouble.”)? What is that supposed to mean, “Ft. McMurray” “in trouble” because the temporary “extraction” boom won’t get pumped into the limited hands that always profit from Gold Rushes? See, e.g., the California version, and what has happened to big chunks of East Russia and its former colonies, and now in Africa and the Amazon basin … link to

    Nothing could possibly go wrong, go wrong, go wrong, go wrong… link to

    It’s a free country, eh? link to

  5. As my girlfriend used to say when we would pass a feedlot “smells like money”. I bet (when the wind is right) that’s what the residents of Ft McMurray think it smells like.

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