There's an old saying that goes, when the rest of Florida catches a cold, the Keys get pneumonia!
Here's what the pundits are saying. Look for $5 per gallon by mid-July! A recent news poll says 1/people are planning on staying closer to home, 2/they're reconsidering purchasing RV's, and 3/if they're looking for work, they're looking closer to home.
The situation may be neutral news for Key West--many of our summer visitors are Floridians, who have relatively shorter distances to travel to reach the Keys.
RV's are no longer as prevalent here as they were in the 70's, for example, due to fewer places where you can rent a space. (Remember the Searstown parking lot in overflow times?)
But pity the poor guy who is doing a 60 mile round trip from Big Pine five days a week. Even if he gets 25 mpg, that's an easy $50 per week on fuel alone, just to get to work. And that's in post-tax income.
Of course, we've been through all this before. The winter of 1973-74 was worse. There were times when you couldn't get gas at all. (I was managing a marina then.) This was during the Nixon administration, even though as people look back, they seem to blame Jimmy Carter for the shortages.
If we had done what Nixon AND Carter recommended, we might not be in the fix we are in today.
As far as local predictions go, if the tourist flow dries up, we will have some economic disruptions. In the 70's we got hit by a double whammy: weight restrictions on the bridges and rising fuel costs. The prices of everything went up, and they stayed up. On the plus side, a good many people here live close to where they work. We are also bicycle friendly, at least on the island of Key West.
In the long run maybe we'll see more electric vehicles here. The tourists seem to love them, they don't pollute (at least directly) and they're quieter than a gas-driven vehicle. Maybe if more people think "out of the box," and the powers-that-be realize that they can make just as much money (or more if the current situation continues) by stressing the "green" aspects of our community, then maybe even the real estate market (after a reasonable adjustment period) will be jump-started. And we'll all wake up in a better place....hope so, anyway....