News Archives

2017 All-School Debate: Keystone XL Pipeline

April 14, 2017

During assembly on Friday, April 14, the final round of the annual all-school debate was held. Winners of the 7/8 grade division were Anna Duncan and Kate Smith, and winners of the 9/10 grade division were Avi Dundoo and Turner Carlson. The final debate was an 11th vs. 12th grade faceoff.

Resolved: The Keystone XL pipeline should be part of U.S. energy policy. Speaking in the affirmative were seniors J.H. Wagner and Max Williams. Speaking in the negative were juniors Abdullah Brown-El and William Howlett. They followed the traditional debate model, including timed opening statements, cross examinations and rebuttals. A summary of their positions follows. The winning team, selected by the JBS debate class, will be announced during assembly on the 17th.


  • Production of oil from the Alberta Tar Sands will continue to rise, regardless of whether the pipeline is built. The question is how that oil will come to the U.S. ~ by boat? by truck? by train? by pipeline? Boats and trucks are not equipped to address the scale of the operation, leaving pipes and rail. Pipes are both safer and less expensive. Currently, 70% of all petroleum products in the U.S. are transported by pipeline and 97% in Canada.
  • TransCanada, the company responsible for the proposed pipeline, has and will continue to work closely with the U.S. government to avoid as many fragile ecosystems as possible. The terms for this project dictate that the pipeline be built four feet underground, and TransCanada has invested more than $1 billion into safety improvements for Keystone XL. The company is also working to minimize social disruptions.
  • Construction of the pipeline will add approximately 50 thousand jobs and generate about $2 billion in earnings in the U.S.
  • Renewable technology is not yet practical for the average consumer, and fossil fuels are what power the world.


  • The fossil fuel industry has woven a web of lies to disguise its profit motive as pragmatic and in the national interest. The Keystone XL actually poses significant risks and offers few benefits to the American people.
  • Extraction of tar sands oil entails 17% more carbon emissions than conventional crude and desecrates vast swathes of forest. Tar sands oil consists of bitumen which sinks in water. So if it leaks in a body of water, as it did in the Kalamazoo River, it cannot be removed.
  • Advocates of the pipeline are incorrect when they assert that the tar sands oil will find its way to the U.S. by rail (which is more dangerous) if not by pipeline. In the absence of the pipeline, Canadian crude oil exports have declined.
  • TransCanada has spent neartly $10 million on lobbying and campaign contributions in Washington, D.C. The company says tens of thousands of jobs will be created, while the U.S. State Department projects a growth of 3900 jobs for only a two-year period.
  • Close to half of the oil from the pipeline would be exported (beyond U.S. borders), resulting in rising costs at U.S. gas pumps

During assembly on Monday, April 17, the team of Brown-El and Howlett was named the winner of the all-school debate. Congratuations to this team and all who participated.