Contrary to popular belief, rising gas prices [or carbon based energy cost in general] is a good thing -- not just for the US, but across the world. The following are some of my reasons...
1. It forces change.
That may be a simple statement, but it's very true. We have relied on a very "dirty" energy source for centuries - whether it be coal or petroleum - and ignored valid [and cleaner] energy sources because of the cost of the basic material. Well, as the price goes up for Crude Oil [with ripple efforts for other carbon based fuels] alternatives become more attractive. It's a simple equation and one that will help spur innovation throughout our economy.
2. Less Imports
Within the US, we have become dependent upon imported products. Cheep labor and cheep energy [once again basic cost components of any product produced] has forced domestic production of many products to completely disappear. Well, labor may still be cheep in other places in the world, but energy isn't. As energy costs go up, it becomes less "cost effective" [remember that word from all the executives telling us it was better to make products in other places of the world?] to ship products from the far reaches of the world INTO the US. This simple fact will make something produced locally price competitive to something produced somewhere else. So, all those manufacturing jobs that were shipped overseas, will begin to come back. Niche manufacturers will see their products move from "overpriced" to "normally priced". Local products will be coming back - it's simply a matter of cost.
3. Green will no longer be about "tree hugging"
Environmentalist have always been on the fringe - and seen a little "out there". That will change - because we will be looking to these same people as "experts" and "guides" as we enter a life of alternatives. Such products as Hemp and Solar will become mainstream - rather than niche. It won't be a status symbol to drive a hybrid or full-electric car - it will the norm. Utilizing "grey" water for such things as watering your yard will become natural to us.
4. Consumerism will die a slow death
It won't happen in the next five years, but I predict there will be a slow move to "simple" living. How many cars do you own? How big is your house? How far away is the nearest grocery store? Or clothing store? When you think "vacation" is it really a glorified shopping trip -- you just get to shop in a new place. When was the last time you heard someone talk about their garden - or even "canning" their own vegetables? Well, those things will change. Cars are an expensive status symbol and getting more expensive everyday. That big house, with the three-story entry way [oh, I mean Greeting Area] has to be heated and cooled. Quick trips to pick up a few things add up. And I've already seen articles appearing about home gardens. Does that mean we won't be "consumers" anymore? No, but rampant consumerism will be replaced with something more mello. There will always be the "keep up with the Jones" mentality - but this competition will be directed in another area - maybe about how big and juicy my home-grown tomatoes are rather than how big my SUV or House is - we can only hope.
How we work will change. We will begin to see more "micro" headquarters for big companies; telecommuting and home offices; more use of "online" and "virtual". And for those that have to travel, 4 day/10 hours a day workweeks. We may even get to the point were we have 3day weekends!! How would our world change if we just said "No More Mondays" and began our workweek on Tuesday [and then schools go into the act] - what if every Monday was a holiday! Think that's strange, bizarre, never gonna happen? Well, I bet when most businesses went to a 5-day work week, that was strange and hard to get used to.