This Yahoo! Finance article from April 2011 references a study by The Atlantic that talks about the effects of high gas prices now and in the future. There can be no doubt that higher gas prices damage the US economy resulting in higher costs, fewer jobs, and lower government tax revenues.
"In the short term, both the consumer and the economy will suffer from higher gas prices. First, expensive gas hurts U.S. demand. When we import goods, we 'export' money to pay for them. When the price of an import increases, more money escapes the economy, reducing wealth and demand. Second, it can hurt U.S. production. All else equal, rising energy costs make it more difficult, or at least more expensive, to move things and people across the country, and this can show up in companies bottom lines."
This is the bottom line if you think about the long-term impact of gas prices.
"If we want to spend less on transportation, we have to focus instead on moving around less, moving around more efficiently, or moving around on something cheaper.
Gas shocks cause great pain today because people are stuck driving the same cars along the same commutes they had last month. But it's not hard to find urbanists who think higher gas prices will eventually move Americans away from fuel-inefficient vehicles and distant suburbs into public-transport/bike-friendly cities. The best way to insulate yourself from gas shocks is probably to not drive 40 minutes to and from work every weekday. For millions of families who have settled, or want to settle, in the suburbs, that answer won't do. Then again, that suburban envy was cultivated in a era of cheap gasoline. That era might be over. In the short term, prices can punish us. In the long term, they can shape us."
As the column concludes: "In the short term, prices can punish us. In the long term, they can shape us."
The Impact of Higher Gas Prices, Today and Tomorrow