Few things are certain, but there do seem to be strong possibilities arising from the above considerations that natural gas and road fuel prices will rise substantially during the Smart Growth planning period, i.e., during the next three decades. The most rapid increases in natural gas prices could occur during the first decade of this period, i.e., before about 2012, because supply in North America will not be able to keep up with demand. Gasoline and diesel fuel prices could also rise considerably before 2012 as more expensive resources are brought into use. However, the most rapid increases in vehicle fuel prices could occur after 2012, as the world adjusts to a regime of declining availability of conventional oil.
It could be prudent to take these energy price scenarios into account in planning for the Central Ontario Zone, for two reasons. The first is that well over 85% of Ontario's energy supply is imported, mostly as oil products and natural gas, and to a lesser extent as coal; presently, some electricity is imported. Higher prices of imports make it harder for Ontario to maintain the positive trade balance in goods and service that is the basis of a sound economy. The second reason is that individuals and businesses will be financially worse off if they have to pay more--perhaps a lot more--for energy purchases, especially if they are locked into particular patterns of use that allow little freedom for manoeuvre.
Two things can be done. One is to move to alternatives to oil and natural gas. This is discussed in the next section, with particular reference to Smart Growth. The other is to reduce energy consumption. This is discussed in the subsequent section, again with particular reference to Smart Growth. It's not a question of one or the other. Both are required.