What if no action is taken, and energy prices increase?

A legitimate point of view could be that more certainty about supply prospects and consequent prices is required before action be taken to switch fuels and curb energy consumption. If prices increases occur, this argument could continue, they will achieve whatever correction in consumption is required.

The difficulty with this argument is that the kind of "correction in consumption" that can be made depends critically on what is available. If distances that must be travelled are large, and there is no transit service, a person or business faced with high fuel prices can only (1) not take essential trips; (2) try to share the trips; (3) suffer the high fuel costs; or (4) buy a more fuel-efficient vehicle. If distances are shorter because urban form is more compact, and transit is available because the compact urban form makes it feasible, the personal or business traveller will have more options, including making the trip by transit and in many cases by foot or bicycle.48

For a business that has to make essential deliveries, more compact urban form could mean a smaller impact of high prices and perhaps more opportunity to enter into cooperative delivery arrangements.

Similarly, if less energy is being used in buildings when price increases occur, the impact of the higher prices will be proportionately less.

48. The need to prepare for a 'soft landing' rather than a 'hard landing' when energy prices increase was emphasized in Gilbert R, Will the last one out ... . Globe & Mail, May 22, 2003, available at the URL below. http://www.est.gov.on.ca/index.cfm?fuseaction=english.news&body=yes&news.... Accessed July 18, 2003.