Reducing dependence on oil
Whether people move closer to work or choose more fuel efficient vehicles, the result is the same. Less dependence on oil, both "foreign" and "domestic". I put those terms in quotes because there is very little difference in terms of economic and environmental harms. Canada has plenty of oil and is a net exporter, yet its oil costs about the same as oil from the Middle East. Why? Because all oil prices, domestic and foreign, are set by a global market heavily influenced by a cartel. As for environmental harms, the Exon Valdiz and the BP Deepwater Horizon were both domestic environmental disasters.
Reducing obesity, diabetes, and other illnesses
Our sedentary life is killing us. Literally. As we have developed into a commuter society, we have also developed higher rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other illnesses that are exacerbated by lack of exercise. Too many of us sit in a car or on a train for hours every day going to and from work, then sit at a desk for hours more, then come home and sit down for dinner, then sit on the couch watching television or playing video games. Imagine if we all walked or rode bicycles to work instead of sitting in rush hour traffic for hours every day. But we don't even have to go that far. Imagine if by cutting out long commutes we had more time during daylight hours to play softball, or garden in the backyard, or take a walk with our loved ones. Imagine how our qwuality fo life could improve.
Increasing a sense of community
Wake up. Rush to start the commute. Work all day. Do the commute thing again. Get home and collapse. Very difficult to develop a sense of community when you almost never spend time with your neighbors. Imagine if we all lived closer to work and could get an extra hour or two (or three?) every day just to be in our community. Imagine if we used some of that time to develop closer relationships with the people who live around us.
Burning fossil fuels releases small particles into the air that end up in our lungs. Thousands of people end up sick or in hospital emergency rooms as a result each year. In some cities, smog alerts are issued warning older people and those with respiratory ailments to stay indoors. This is a quality life? You don't have to believe in climate change to agree that reducing the amount of fossil fuels we burn is a good thing.
Lessening the amount of agricultural land lost to housing developments
Today our crisis is energy. In the future our crises will be food and water. Our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will ask, "Why did they use up all the open space to build houses?" They will need that open space to produce food and to allow nature to recycle water naturally.
Increasing support for alternative energy
Most surveys show that most Americans think that increasing the amount of sustainable energy would be a good thing, but most Americans also do not want to pay for it. With higher gasoline prices, sustainable energy sources start looking like economical alternatives. And that is just in the short term. In the long term, after we've invested in the sustainable energy infrastructure, no one will be able to raise the prices of the wind or solar radiation that is used by our power plants.
Woodbridge, New Jersey