Money trail

Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

Auntie Ruth is green to the eco scene. Read up each week as she weeds through the dirt and unearths new gems of environmental knowledge.

Ruth was a little curious. She wondered what could possibly explain the continued use of coal—a highly polluting fossil fuel—as an energy source in the United States. She turned to Follow the Coal Money (, an online tool that tracks dirty coal money in politics, meaning contributions from the coal industry to members of Congress. She found plenty of Republican recipients, but Democrats weren’t hurting for contributions either, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, Federal Election Commission and Appalachian Voices. Ruth plugged in her zip code and learned that Rep. Doris Matsui has accepted about $17,700 since 2000—about half of that from Edison International, which does mountaintop coal removal. Sen. Barbara Boxer accepted $5,500 and Sen. Dianne Feinstein accepted $53,900. The site lists phone numbers, so Ruth can easily call up Feinstein’s office at (202) 224-3841 to voice her disappointment that her senator would accept money from an industry responsible for massive carbon-dioxide emissions and social-justice violations.

Auntie Ruth recently learned how to use YouTube, and oh my, it has opened up a whole new world! Aside from snippets of The Golden Girls, Ruth’s been checking out videos of eco-subject matter. After 15 minutes of trying to fight the urge, she finally decided to search for fan videos dedicated to her. Instead, she found another “Inconvenient Ruth.” At first she was a bit chapped, but those feelings were soon extinguished after further research on the other Ruth; we’ll call her Ruth 2. Ruth 2 is an outspoken, hyper, 9-year-old cartoon girl who loves Al Gore. She thinks anything can be reused … even, uh, toilet paper. But she’s also cynical and disappointed with the world around her, believing that she and Gore are the only ones left who care.

Another video Ruth stumbled upon was released by the United Nations Environment Programme. The 30-second video shows a man and woman wearing supercool denim jeans. The snippet offers tips on how to take care of your jeans: Wear them at least three times before washing them in cold water; hot water accounts for 85 to 90 percent of energy used to run a washing machine. Finally, ditch the dryer. There’s no need to waste electricity on drying. Just hang the jeans outside on a clothesline instead.