I ran across several interesting items in the news today, each of which might not merit a diary in itself, but which together seemed to have a common theme that put me in a good mood for the day – so I thought I’d share them with you.

The common theme linking these stories that jumped out at me was the old line from the Watergate movie “All the President’s Men” – “Follow the Money.”  If you want to really get your finger on the ebb and flow of power in America, you have to follow the money; it’s just the way our country is set up.  And some of the ways the money is flowing look pretty good.  Here are a few examples after the fold:

On the Mother Jones website this morning, I ran across a story by Bill McKibben called Global Inc. Goes Green  I almost diaried this one, but went with the Hapless Toad diary already posted instead.  In this piece, McKibben points out that large multinational companies are worried that the lax environmental policies of the Bush administration are going to cost them money later, and they’d rather just have one set of environmental rules to follow, even if they’re more strict, rather than face uncertain large costs in the future when the US is forced from its somnambulism on the environment and adopts environmental regulations more in accord with 21st century science:

Among some U.S.-based multinational companies, there is a growing sense that living in two different realities–the one here and the one prevailing in the rest of the world–may be more trouble than it’s worth. Several dozen firms, from Alcoa to Weyerhaeuser, have endorsed a set of principles proffered by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. The principles are hardly radical (“We accept the views of most scientists that enough is known for us to take actions to address” climate change.), but they’re a far cry from Bush administration dogma.

“Companies have had a kind of forced schizophrenia put upon them,” says Massie, who was one of the first environmentalists to work extensively with big corporations like Ford. “In the U.S. they’re supposed to act as if it’s not a serious problem, as if carbon will never have a price. But everywhere else in the world they’re being asked to operate in an environment where carbon does carry a cost, where those who can increase their efficiencies will gain financially, both directly and because they’ll have technologies people want to buy.”

Some companies, he says, will do their best to take aggressive advantage of the administration’s cheap-energy policies, “but others are already looking past the Bush term to where they want to be 5 or 10 years out.” American Electric Power, the largest private producer of carbon dioxide on the planet, said recently that targets for carbon reduction “represent a common-sense approach that can begin the process of lowering emissions along a gradual, cost-effective path.” As Massie explains, the company actually complained recently that “uncertainties over the cost of carbon” made it very difficult to make decisions about capital investment. That is, you don’t want to build more coal plants if 10 years from now reality breaks through the nifty shield erected by the Wall Street Journal editorial page and you have to pay a hefty carbon tax on every ton of anthracite you burn.

The second piece (from Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot) meets your daily mental health requirement for schadenfreude, and needs little introduction, bwahahahaha:

Once powerful Christian Coalition teeters on insolvency

The Christian Coalition, the onetime powerhouse of the religious right founded by Pat Robertson, is struggling to stay afloat.

The group’s annual revenue has shrunk to one-twentieth of what it was a decade ago – from a peak of $26 million in 1996 to $1.3 million in 2004 – and it has left a trail of unpaid bills from Texas to Virginia. Among the creditors who have sued the coalition for nonpayment are landlords, direct-mail companies, lawyers and at least one former employee seeking back pay.

It has even come to this: The company that moved the group out of its Washington headquarters in 2002 went to small-claims court Friday in Henrico County trying to collect $1,890 that remains unpaid on its three-year-old bill.

It is the latest in at least a dozen judicial collection actions brought against the coalition since 2001. The amounts sought by creditors total hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Go enjoy the whole thing!  It’s as good as chocolate, but has zero calories.  🙂

For our third bit of good news, our friends at Truthout link to an excellent piece over at “Big Orange,” where the president of Shell Oil tells Bush, in effect, “Thanks for the offer of cash to build new refineries, but I don’t think we’ll be needing it.”  His reasoning?  In the four years it would take to bring new refineries on line, he anticipates the American public will sufficiently shift to higher-mileage vehicles to make the excess capacity redundant. But are we sure he’s not being facetious here?  Actually, he may be caught in a Catch-22:

  But could it be that Hofmeister wants to limit refinery capacity to keep prices up? Green Car Congress points out that:

    It might be easy to dismiss Hofmeister’s comments as self-serving; if production does not increase, but [if] demand does, then gasoline prices will continue to rise. However, the higher prices rise, the greater the likelihood of radical changes in consumer behavior.

In a related bit of good news, the continued high prices for energy continue to spur technological innovations in the field of alternative power, reducing costs and bringing them closer to coming on line.  

Also from Truthout, this story will give you a warm fuzzy; go read it and enjoy:

Solar Cell Panels Made out of Everyday Plastics

     With oil and gas prices in the United States hovering at an all-time high, interest in renewable energy alternatives is again heating up. Researchers at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science hope to meet the growing demand with a new and more affordable way to harness the sun’s rays: using solar cell panels made out of everyday plastics.

    In research published in Nature Materials magazine, UCLA engineering professor Yang Yang, postdoctoral researcher Gang Li and graduate student Vishal Shrotriya showcase their work on an innovative new plastic (or polymer) solar cell they hope eventually can be produced at a mere 10 percent to 20 percent of the current cost of traditional cells, making the technology more widely available.

So, add to the good cheer – do you have any additional examples of good news where the flow of the money looks promising for a turning of the tide in America?

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