You sense it from the waiting lists for Toyota (TM
) Priuses. You see it on the faces of the solar-energy stalwarts who are suddenly being showered with attention. You read about it constantly in newspapers and magazines. And you hear it on TV and even at the movies. Warnings about global warming grow more dire by the day: Experts say Manhattan, Washington, and San Francisco will eventually be under water unless people start filling their tanks with corn squeezings and bolting solar panels to their roofs.
As troubling as the predictions are, even more urgent problems are weighing on the American psyche these days -- namely the price of oil, which is surging past $75 a barrel, and the deteriorating Middle East situation. In liberal and conservative circles alike, energy independence is becoming a national imperative, and renewable energy is attracting an unprecedented array of groups. "We're seeing an alignment of the environmental interests, automakers, the agricultural industry, the security and energy-independence proponents, even the evangelicals," says billionaire venture capitalist L. John Doerr. "When did all those [interests] come together before?"