In the '60s and '70s, America woke up to widespread pollution and took serious steps to curb it. Again, the nation is rubbing its eyes – this time over the specific issues of climate change and dependence on fossil fuels. But will it hit the snooze alarm, or jump out of bed?
For the past year or so, awareness in the US of global warming has been going mainstream. It's the same with a renewed concern about foreign oil. It's not just the liberal, close-knit environmental community that's on the alert, but many businesses and investors, mayors and governors, Republicans and evangelicals.
Though their solutions differ, there's at least uniformity in their growing concern – and an opportunity for US innovation and leadership in these related issues.
Hurricane Katrina sounded a coast-to-coast alarm last year, even though no one can prove a link between the hurricane and Earth's warming trend. High energy prices have also driven public awareness. And now it looks as if Al Gore may become the Rachel Carson of global warming. His movie, "An Inconvenient Truth," is the third highest-grossing documentary ever.
According to a recent Massachusetts Institute of Technology poll, nearly half of Americans now consider global warming the nation's top environmental problem – up from 20 percent in 2003.
But the challenge is in converting widespread concern into widespread action. US hybrid vehicle sales doubled last year, but Americans still preferred SUVs by a ratio of 23 to 1 and highway speeding is up.