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Smart Buying

Your World and Your Money

Editor Fred Frailey explains the motivation behind the Green Issue -- and, no, it's not politics.

This issue is a big departure for us. In fact, I don't think we've ever devoted as many pages of an edition to a single topic. But then, you seldom encounter a subject so full of possibilities for making money as an investor and for saving money as a consumer. To date, global warming has been debated as a matter of government policy, and the economic fallout has usually revolved around costs and sacrifices -- pretty depressing stuff, actually. It occurs to us, however, that confronting global warming will produce winners as well as losers. Which would you rather be?

Eye on the money. If you want to debate the science or politics of global warming, look elsewhere. Our concern is for your personal economic well-being. So we went looking for stocks that will benefit from the international effort to find alternative energy sources and clean up the atmosphere.

We did not come back with the usual names, either. For example, would you think of General Electric, the nation's biggest industrial company, as a major player? Or of a railroad, such as Burlington Northern Santa Fe? In the case of GE, the conglomerate has its fingers in everything from wind-turbine manufacturing to clean-coal technology. A train is many times more fuel-efficient than a truck, and Burlington Northern delivers some 55 trainloads a day of very low-sulfur coal to electric utilities. In almost any clean-earth scenario I can imagine, we'll still need coal as a basic fuel source, and it doesn't get much cleaner than what comes out of Wyoming and Montana. (I'm a BNSF shareholder, by the way.) You'll find a wealth of good ideas in 25 Ways to Invest in a Cleaner World.

Next, we examine ways that you, as a homeowner and consumer, can save money -- and even make money. Solar Finally Pays Off looks at the economics of paneling your roof to generate electricity. Considering the sizable check I just wrote to my electric utility, the idea of making it pay me is empowering. Short of making a pricey investment, what can you do to cut down on your use of electricity (not to mention water)? That's the subject of 29 Ways to Conserve and Save. My, but the savings add up.

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A Shopping Guide to Eco-Friendly Products does not promise to save you money, but it does introduce to some of us (me included) home products that leave smaller footprints on our environment and tells us where or how to find them. And if you must battle over the politics of global warming, arm yourself with Jeremy Siegel's well-stated ideas for letting the marketplace make a real difference.