Politics: Thomas Friedman was on NPR the other day; he made a statement to the effect that he's happy either way with what happens in Iran. If the mullahs bow to the west and drop their nuke quest, grand. If they continue to push the US, then Bush et. al. will have no choice but to push for strong sanctions and the Euros are more apt to listen. This will have the innevitable impact of shaking the oil markets further, pushing gas prices even higher.
In Friedman's view, and I tend to agree, the higher the price of gas, and the longer it stays high, the quicker this nation, and others, can get off oil. This outcome is beneficial, not only because of the benefits of reduced green house emissions, but also due to reduced dependence of the US on volatile oil supplies and price fluctuations. Reducing green house emmissions makes me and the penguins happy. Reducing US oil dependence makes conservatives happy because they believe this cash goes to fund terrorists, and it makes liberals happy because it reduces the hegemonistic instincts of US foreign policy.
In any event, one could easily plot the correlation of gas price spikes and the frequency in the news with which alternatives to oil are discussed. I, unlike the punditocracy, do not believe this situation is that difficult to resolve. I believe you need to do the following:
1. Develop efficient alternative fuel based solutions (i.e. bio-diesel, alchohol, etc.) One would think conservatives and liberals could agree on this - farm belts thrive with a massive new market. Liberals get reduced emissions, working open spaces (and hence less sprawl) and a happier planet.
2. Develop FFVs (Flexible Fuel Vehicles that run on gas or an alternative fuel). Again, this should be a political no brainer - gas is not eliminated over night, so if consumers can select gas or alchohol, they're happy to have the option to chase lower prices, or align their fuel and ethics.
3. Develop pluggable hybrids (hybrid FFVs that can be plugged into a socket at night). More supply diversification due to the variety of electricity options. A hybrid gets 60+MPG. With local only traffic, you could be getting 400+ MPG if you're fairly close to home and plugging in at night.
4. Keep pushing on the fuel cell front for the longer term horizon. Zero emissions should still be the goal.
and most importantly:
5. Keep the price of gas high
High gas prices keep everyone talking about gas alternatives; it encourages VCs to inject cash into start ups where the real innovation occurs, and vested interests can be toppled with disruptive technologies, or atleast forced to embrace them. High gas prices also encourages people to leave their giant SUVs and F350s.