Montreal, September 23, 2007 • No 234




Harry Valentine is a
free-marketeer living in Eastern Ontario.




by Harry Valentine


          Governments have a long history of formulating policies that initially have noble intentions and are free from any shortcomings. Sometimes very long after (sometimes very soon after) the policies have been implemented unforeseen shortcomings begin to appear.


          Historical geological evidence suggests that the earth's climate has undergone multiple severe changes in weather patterns throughout its multi-billion year history. The evidence suggests that there was a period when the average temperature in Canada's Arctic region may have been as high as 20-degrees C (68-degrees F).

          Governments around the world have recognized that weather patterns are changing. Most have accepted the theory that the cause is an increase in the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (it is around 0.3%) and have implemented policies to reduce greenhouse gases. These policies include providing funding to favoured groups to undertake research, advice on policies and develop appropriate technologies. It is on this front where some of the shortcomings of the well-intentioned policies have begun to reveal themselves.

          One of the Ontario Government policies provides funding to favoured community organizations to develop carbon reduction programs. These programs include encouraging greater use of fluorescent lighting as well as more energy efficient home appliances. Several communities across Ontario receive all or most of their electric power from a hydroelectric power station. It is certainly a remarkable achievement for government funding to be used to reduce carbon emissions from hydroelectric power stations.

          These programs allow community groups to explore and promote the use of clean energy technologies. Such technologies may be appropriate at some locations but not at all locations. One overly enthusiastic group is eager to install a farm of kinetic turbines in a river in a tourist region that is frequented by recreational boating. Some of the recreational boaters used motorized boats while others paddle canoes and kayaks. Some of the summer time water revelers travel on skis and are pulled by motorized boats.

"A problem of this nature would not even exist if rivers were privately owned and property rights were upheld."

          The whitewater rafting industry has voiced its opposition to mini-hydroelectric dams being built on certain rivers and has expressed concern about kinetic turbines being installed in other rivers. Despite the use of life jackets, there is the ever-present danger of somebody falling off a boat, capsizing a canoe or kayak or falling off their water skis. The blades of some designs of kinetic turbines rotate with considerable force. A moving turbine blade could inflict severe trauma on anyone who may fall into the water and come into contact with it.

          A federal government department appears willing to support and participate in a demonstration test program of a kinetic turbine that is to be installed in a river in a tourist region where visitors and locals participate in a variety of summer watersport activities. No mention has been made of whether a section of that river will be closed to tourists, neither has any concern been voiced about what would happen to people who fall into the water and come into contact with a moving turbine blade. A problem of this nature would not even exist if rivers were privately owned and property rights were upheld.

          An owner of a private section of river could install any design of turbine he wishes to generate electric power. The same owner could also operate a campground on private property located next to the river and allow patrons to engage in a variety of watersports in the river. Possible lawsuits could be avoided by installing turbines designed so that they are harmless to people who come into contact with them. Private river owners who install kinetic turbines on headwaters and tributaries of rivers would also reduce the speed at which the river would flow to lower elevations.

          Ancient Mayan engineers built rock dams at regular intervals on headwaters and tributaries of major rivers to reduce the speed at which rivers flow downstream and also to reduce downstream flooding. A regime of private ownership of rivers and zero regulation of electric power could result in thousands of kinetic turbines being installed on tributaries and headwaters of major rivers that are prone to flooding. Such action by private owners could prevent or reduce incidents of major flooding downstream and the resulting mass destruction of property.