His guitarist in Crazy Horse might be dealing with a fractured hand, but Neil Young threw some verbal punches this week when he compared the oilsands in Fort McMurray, Alta. to Hiroshima, the site of the first atomic bomb drop in August 1945.
The Globe and Mail today reported Young was in Washington, D.C. yesterday when he told those attending an event for the National Farmers Union about oilsands development and its environmental impact.
"The fact is, Fort McMurray looks like Hiroshima," he said, as shown in a YouTube clip. "Fort McMurray is a wasteland. The Indians up there and the native peoples are dying. The fuels all over -- the fumes everywhere -- you can smell it when you get to town. The closest place to Fort McMurray that is doing the tarsands work is 25 to 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."
Young also said he recently visited Alberta where "much of the oil comes from, much of the oil that we're using here, which they call ethical oil because it's not from Saudi Arabia or some country that may be at war with us."
In another clip featuring a different portion of Young's speech yesterday, the singer -- who said he's "still feeling" the lengthy, two-week trek in his LincVolt car -- professed his love of ethanol and his dismay at oil companies.
"It's a beautiful fuel," he said of ethanol. "But we don't have freedom of choice. This is a basic American thing along the federal interstate system. There's a monopoly in existence right there alongside the road. Every time you get off the road you enter a monopoly zone. It's called big oil. There's no reason why every fuel stop that has more than four fuel pumps cannot have an E85 pump, there's just no reason for it. It gives Americans freedom to choose the fuel they use, so that they can decide how much CO2 they want to put in the atmosphere."
Young also said CO2 was a leading cause of weather changes affecting farmers.
"It's climate chaos," Young said. "This is a direct result of CO2, unless you don't believe me and 99 per cent of the scientists. It's a truth, these things are happening because there's science behind them. It's real.
"I'm ready to take the flag, nobody paid me to come here," he added. "I'm here because I really see this, this is a disaster. We have a very very big problem, the CO2 is going to get to be a huge issue in the next couple of years."
The singer also stated part of the problem ethanol faces is misinformation regarding the fuel, some of which big oil companies play a part in providing.
"Who are these people who are telling us how dirty and how ethanol is not green?" he said. "I think it is the oil companies and the only thing about their product that is green is the money that goes into campaigns that pays for our representatives. We have to hold these people to task. They're our people, they're our representatives. Please don't let them forget who they work for."
As for the Fort McMurray barbs, Melissa Blake, the mayor of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (which includes Fort McMurray), rebuked Young's comments and said they were "blatantly false."
"When people say it's a wasteland, it really and truly isn't," she said. "When it comes to the community of Fort McMurray, you're overwhelmed frankly by the beauty of it."