This should be obvious enough, but rising gas prices are starting to take a toll on many Northwestern businesses. According to this Seattle P-Iarticle, farmers and cabbies are among the first to feel the heat. For them, fuel costs are rising far faster than the price of either farm products or cab fares.
Other businesses have been able to pass off at least some of the costs to consumers, or have found ways of minimizing their financial risks. Shippers, for example, have added fuel surcharges for their services—forcing retailers and other shipping-dependent businesses either to accept slimmer profits or raise their prices.
However, some big fuel consumers, including Southwest Airlines, have kept their fuel costs manageable by dabbling in the oil market, by placing bets that oil prices would rise—bets that have paid off handsomely. And some businesses (in addition to oil companies) may actually stand to profit from higher fuel prices. Boeing, for example, hopes that its new 787 model—which uses 20 percent less fuel than the previous generation of airplanes—will give it a competitive advantage over rival Airbus. Likewise, companies that manufacture fuel efficient vehicles are gaining market share in the US—particularly by eating into the sales of Ford and GM (as documented in this NYTimes article).
So while rising oil prices are certainly causing some big picture economic jitters, the extent to which your business will be harmed depends, to a large extent, on what line of business you’re in.