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    Sky-high prices spark renewable energy


    NEW YORK (Reuters) -- With fuel prices at record levels, U.S. consumers are once again turning their attention to more efficient cars, companies are investing in renewable energy and government programs are encouraging conservation.

    The trend mimics the 1970s, when record high oil prices led Americans to trade in their gas guzzlers for smaller foreign cars -- but this time the move is more high-tech.

    The biggest advances in the renewable fuels revolution are hybrid cars, hydrogen fuel and solar and wind power.

    "With gasoline prices reaching beyond $2 per gallon... hybrid vehicles are catching more consumers' attention," Prudential analyst Michael Bruynesteyn said.

    Gas-electric hybrids accounted for only 0.26 percent of the 16.7 million cars and trucks sold last year in the United States. But sales have increased 36 percent so far this year, according to research firm RL Polk & Co., and Japan's Toyota Motor Corp. decided to ship 47,000 of its Prius hybrids to the United States, up from the 36,000 originally planned for 2004.

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