While some of our European readers may snicker if I were to complain about having to pay $4.10/gallon to fill up my car’s gas tank, the fact is that across the world many people are feeling pressure at the pump. There are some who argue that the environmental benefits of high gas prices, which are changing our energy consumption habits for the better, outweigh the economic problems pricey fuel creates. But one unexpected benefit of rising fuel costs might be felt on the web, where high gas prices may help to drive adoption of web apps, says Google vice president Vinton Cerf, according to the AFP.
“It (high oil prices) may have a positive impact on the Internet,” Cerf told a group yesterday in Seoul, South Korea. “We may turn increasingly to video conferencing or other kinds of electronic media in order to avoid having to travel.”
Indeed, the demand for telecommuting is on the rise as a result of rising energy costs. While not all jobs can be done from home, one study found that if every worker in the United States who could telecommute — 53% of white collar workers — did so twice per week, 9.7 billion gallons of gas and $38.2 billion would be saved annually. Another recent study found that 37% of IT workers in the US would be willing to take a 10% pay cut if telecommuting were offered as an option — 22% would take a pay cut to work form home in the UK. A bill requiring federal workers in the US who are eligible to work from home be allowed to at least 20% of the time recently passed in the House of Representatives and a similar bill is making its way through the Senate.
So how does that help the web? More home workers, means a larger market for applications designed to help remote workers collaborate. Things like Google Docs, Basecamp, Dimdim, and PalBee will all benefit from a larger contingent of home workers.
Do you work from home? Would you be willing to take a pay cut if you were given that option? Do you agree with Cerf, will the high cost of oil will force more people to work via the web rather than face to face? Let us know in the comments below.