It depends on your definition of "safe."
In a new book, Sun News Network host and corporatist contrarian Ezra Levant, also known for his troubling attack on the Roma community recently, claims that hydraulic fracturing is the logical solution to address North America's energy needs. "Fracking," basically, is pumping water and chemicals into the ground at a high pressure, causing slight fractures where natural gas can be released and collected. It's not the dirtiest form of energy, but it's not clean, renewable or sustainable. Like most energy, saying fracking is "100% safe" is also completely false.
Describing the process alone should lead any rational person to question why we're getting that desperate for energy; Levant views this process as not only sustainable, but perfectly safe for the people living around fracking sites: "It is no overstatement to say that fracking has proven 100% safe for drinking water in the United States." Well, that sounds definitive.
Gasland and Gasland 2 filmmaker Josh Fox certainly disputes that, when his films feature scenes of families lighting their contaminated tap water on fire. But I guess this must be Hollywood trickery, part of a vast left-wing conspiracy (or not).
"This process leaks methane into the atmosphere," Fox told me this week on The Exchange. "Methane is a potent greenhouse gas," and it's more damaging than CO2 over a century, he said.
Levant views fracking as safe compared to coal - which I suppose is true. But that says more about the damaging effects of coal on the environment and the people who mine it than it does about the safety of fracking. It's a silly, red herring argument.
It's also silly is to point to American legislators and regulators, Democrat and Republican alike, for guidance: "When Alabama regulators reviewed fracking activity in their state," Levant wrote, they found no evidence of contamination. Well, if Alabama says it's OK... If both parties and the President approve of fracking, so will the regulators they appoint (there are no limits on how much Big Oil and Gas, or any special interest, can contribute to politicians, so the results are predictable).
The inaction of the Obama administration and the EPA are actually central arguments among the anti-frackers; this isn't a debate between Republicans and Democrats, left and right. The notion that Levant wins the argument because supposed commie leftie Obama agrees is childish.
Based on the half hour (!!!) he devoted to my interview with Fox on his show tonight, Levant assumes that I am an environmentalist, an Obama supporter, a wind power promoter, a "leftie" and a bunch of other things that are the exact opposite of true (I still drive a Jeep and I don't link myself to any political party or cause; if I were an environmentalist, I'd be a terrible one!). I just think Fox's argument, possibly flawed at times like all arguments, is better researched and more convincing. But Levant is a tribalist, so I guess that makes me on Team Green today.
Levant is pro-fracking, pro-oil sands, pro-offshore drilling; what brave positions for a commentator to take, completely in support of the status quo and the energy lobby, without a shred of nuance.
Listen to my interview with Fox and Tommy Schnurmacher's with Levant. It's obvious that I side with Fox and Tommy with Levant, and everyone had equal time, despite Levant's whining, but you can judge for yourself: