Neil Young On Climate Change, Cowboy Indian Alliance

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This interview with legendary Rock and Roll Hall of Fame musician Neil Young was taped live on April, 26 2014 at the Cowboy and Indian Alliance in Washington, D.C.

The event sought to pressure President Barack Obama to reject the construction of the fourth and final leg of the Keystone XL Pipeline that, if approved, would open the flood gates for deadly and carbon-loaded tar sands crude on an unprecedented scale.



The transcript is as follows:

Emerson Urry: We’re here with the incredible Neil Young today on EnviroNews. Thank you for joining us.

Neil Young: Thanks for having me.

Urry: You’ve done the anti-war thing in the past – pretty political on that. What is it that drives you so hard on this issue at this point in your life?

Young: Well, I’ll tell you, before I answer that let me ask you one question, and if you promise to use the question and answer, then I’ll answer any question you have.

Urry: Sounds good.

Young: Okay. How many pounds of CO2 comes out as a result of burning a gallon of gasoline in a car?

Urry: That’s a good question, and I wish I knew the answer off hand.

Young: Okay, well I’ll give you the answer. That’s 19 and a half pounds. Okay, so, 19 and a half pounds. The oil that’s in Alberta that’s going to come down the Keystone Pipeline, if it is okayed by President Obama, which I don’t think it will be, is three times that much, almost three times that much, so that would mean every gallon of gasoline burned by a car in China or in Asia, where the oil is going, would produce about 55 pounds of CO2, which is like turning a Toyota Celica into a Chevy Suburban or a bigger car. That’s the difference, and even if that wasn’t the case, more oil is wrong at this point for many reasons. The environmental reason is number one for me… is the CO2 in the planet is just we’ve got to reverse that. Having this is not a reversal. More of this oil is not a reversal, and then at the core of the whole thing is in Canada, where I’m from, there are treaties, and there is a constitution in Canada that guarantees that the First Nations people that live on this land have the ability to negotiate and discuss terms and stop things that are bad happening on their land, and they own all of the land that the tar sands are on and are planned to be on, and if President Obama was to okay the pipeline that would be like saying, “It’s okay to break your Constitution. It’s okay to break your treaties, and it’s okay to break your word.” It would actually be providing a situation where it’d be easy for Canadians and the Canadian government to break their own word to their people, which I don’t think is a very presidential thing to do, and I also would like to see America on the right side of history ‘cause I think this is the issue of our times; it’s a defining issue. We need to change course and start moving away from CO2.

Urry: Speaking about moving away from CO2 and carbon-loaded bitumen crude, we’ve been following an issue out of Utah. We were the first news agency to report on this. There’s a movie coming called “Last Rush For the Wild West,” and we recently saw it [the Utah tar sands issue] on Amy Goodman, which is the first commercially approved [tar sands] strip mine in the lower 48 states. It’s said that there are one to three trillion barrels – more than has been used in all of human history – out there on the Tavaputs Plateau. Are you engaged with that issue here in the lower 48 states, and if so, are you planning to be more engaged? What’s the strategy there?

Young: It’s a world issue. We’re engaged everywhere that there’s oil, everywhere that there is CO2 abuse. If we don’t change this, we’re not going to have a good place for our children or for our grandchildren or for their grandchildren to live. All of the scientific studies including studies from the United Nations special council that they put together have said this. They all agree with this. The science is with this universally. There is very little disagreement on this issue. We can’t go ahead and keep doing these destructive things to Mother Earth and allow the climate change to happen, which will destroy our way of life. Actually, carbon abuse is un-American. It destroys American business. It lowers the bottom line. Coca Cola just complained that they lost 20 percent of their bottom line because of climate change, and that’s an issue. That was on the front page of “the New York Times.” Coca Cola and 18 other major companies who are blaming climate change for their loss of revenue.

Urry: How does the nuclear issue fit into this conundrum that’s going on? We’ve got Fukushima spewing plutonium and deadly isotopes into the ocean daily. Is that an issue that you’re involved with? Are there going to be more prominent voices involved against the nuclear issue?

Young: I am involved in things that threaten Mother Earth. If you can look at the, you know, what was a badly designed and badly located nuclear plant in Japan that has caused unbelievable damage. You just have to look at it. It is what it is. It’s not a good thing. There’s got to be a better way to make energy.

Urry: Neil…

Young: That’s the future. We have to look at the future not the past. We have to look at how are we going to do this? How are we going to continue to make energy that’ll work for us and make us last? Up here we have the sun. You know we have to start thinking about that instead of how many gazillion barrels of oil we can get and all of these oil fields and the money that can be made from them. Short term gain is going to end up with lifelong loss for all of our grandchildren, and we make money now by digging a hole that is going to take us generations to dig our way out of if we can get out of it.

Urry: In my humble opinion, you’ve produced some of the coolest country sounds in rock ‘n’ roll history. Is there a prophetic element almost to this Cowboy Indian Alliance that’s converging here on the Capitol?

Young:That’s a big reach. That’s a good one though. All I can say to that is “Twang.” Twang.

Urry: There you go. The amazing Neil Young. Thank you so much for taking the time to be on the show with us.

Young: Thank you. I hope you take the time to get this message out to your listeners. It’s a very important message. It doesn’t have to do with myself. It doesn’t have to do with the people who are saying it. It has to do with Mother Earth, and it has to do with realizing what we are doing and turning it around. This is America. We are supposed to be able to lead the world. President Obama could make a great example here, and this could be a historic world event, where a country actually starts to turn the corner and go in the right direction against climate change with a huge gesture that people could gather around all around the whole world. That is what America is supposed to be, and that’s what the leader of the free world is supposed to do.

Urry: Neil Young, thank you for taking the time with us today.

Young: Thank you, a pleasure, thank you very much.