With four-dollar gas expected in 2011 and five-dollar gas a possibility in 2012, there's plenty of cause for optimism.
Years ago, many companies, citizens, and governments around the Bay Area saw the end of oil on the horizon, and we've been investing heavily in cleaner technology. Now, with gas prices nearing what they are in Europe, the region is poised to be a leader in emerging fuels and energy sources.
The name of the game now, experts say, is reducing oil consumption. There are plenty of ways to accomplish this: chief among them being investment in public transportation rather than in facilities for single-occupant vehicles.
Another key strategy is building infrastructure for electric cars, so power can be generated at a stationary plant and then stored in cells. Of course, even electric cars are still cars, and present significant inherent environmental and safety consequences.
Smarter urban planning is also required. Over the next decades, expect to see stores, schools, and places of work move closer to where people live.
Oil companies, predictably, are taking a different approach. They say that the solution is more drilling in sensitive areas like the Arctic Wildlife Preserve. But with the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico still killing wildlife, they may offer a less persuasive argument than solar, wind, and tide power companies.
But whether the dangerous new oil drilling happens or not, the end of oil is not a matter of "if" but "when." If we plan for the future now, when gas is a mere $5 per gallon, it'll save us a world of hurt when a gallon costs $50.