Our present way of life depends on ready availability of relatively inexpensive energy. This alone provides sufficient reason to take account of energy factors in a forward planning exercise of the scale and scope of the development of the provincial Smart Growth Strategy. Strong indications that availability of the two most-used fuels--natural gas and oil--could become constrained during the planning period add to the need to consider where Ontario's energy will come from and how it will be used.
This paper suggests that prices of natural gas will rise sharply during the present decade and continue to rise thereafter. Oil prices will rise more slowly until after about 2012, when there could be steep increases. These worrying prospects deserve much closer attention than has been possible for the preparation of this paper.
There are two ways to meet these challenges. One is to move to alternative fuels, particularly renewable fuels. The other is to reduce energy consumption. Both should be done. There is already much interest in alternative fuels, particularly wind power. Full realization of the nature of our energy predicament could strengthen this interest dramatically. Present attitudes and land-use practices, however, can impose severe constraints on development of alternative fuels. These matters need to be addressed in the Smart Growth Strategy.
Reducing energy consumption can be an equally challenging undertaking. The general direction of Smart Growth is towards patterns of development that require less energy use, particularly for transportation. Energy considerations strongly support the need for Smart Growth, and perhaps even more intensification of development than is now being contemplated.
Transportation poses special challenges because of the weak prospects for continued availability of affordable, independently powered vehicles such as present automobiles and trucks using liquid fuels. Tethered vehicles--powered by electricity from a rail or wire--offer the best hope for transport in an energy-constrained world. Their development and deployment should be matters of some urgency.
Even if present indications of large fuel price increases turn out to be false, there are good reasons to include changes in energy practices among the objectives of the Smart Growth Strategy. Carefully implemented, such changes could enhance Ontario's economy, improve air quality, and contribute to worldwide efforts to moderate the extent of climate change.
If the analysis here is correct, failure to take appropriate action could have profound adverse consequences on Ontario's economy and environment, and even its social fabric. Development of the Smart Growth Strategy provides opportunities to ensure that Ontario residents will be able to cope with erosion of a foundation of modern industrialized societies, access to essentially unlimited amounts of fossil-fuel energy.
The best outcomes of this brief paper would be a full-scale assessment of the matters raised in it, and appropriate recognition of the importance of energy factors in the emerging Smart Growth Strategy.