TALES OF TWO ENERGY FATES

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If you believe one magazine, we'll all be sitting around in the dark within a couple of years.

If you believe the other, we're going to have so much power that prices will be kept down and we'll be selling off a bunch to people in dumber states.

I don't know about you, but I think I'll go with the one that doesn't proclaim on its cover that Aerosmith is the "greatest band in America." The middle-aged rockers lead the way for Boston magazine's "Best of Boston" issue, getting it off to a dubious start.

No, I think I'll trust Conservation Matters, even if it is a house organ for a public-advocacy group, the New England-focused Conservation Law Foundation. The region's energy future is the cover story in the summer issue, and the news is good. David Trueblood's story says that not only will we be wading in megawattage, but an increasing amount of it will be produced by "the cleanest, most environmentally benign" power plants in New England history.

One of these new plants is AES Granite Ridge, under construction in Londonderry, N.H. It will operate two huge, gas-fired turbines that Trueblood says will allow the plant to run at much higher efficiency than older plants, while polluting far less.

The prose gets a bit thick when it rings the foundation's praise, such as how it has "worked to reinvent the way electrical power is organized and produced in New England." But as the maxim goes, it's not bragging if you can back it up - and it appears to be solidly backed up.

This contrasts joltingly with Boston, in its story "Mass Destruction." The magazine sounds four alarms - on the unsigned introduction page up front, in the headline to Stephen J. Smurda's story, and twice on the story's first page - that we may soon be short of power, without ever citing a source! "It's projected . . . " is how it's phrased, without getting back to who is doing the projecting.

It's sloppy, and the story - whose thrust is that development in eastern New England is rampant, and that if events proceed at this pace, we're going to run out of everything - is undercut as a result. It's too bad that Smurda didn't just bring the topic up with folks at the foundation; he quotes them twice, on other matters, in his story.

The "Best of Boston" picks, at least, look very promising, judging by the places they mention that I know. Like any good "best of" list, there's plenty on it I don't know but am going to check out. There are also useful subdivisions for readers north, south, and west of the city, a feature new this year. As always with this annual issue, though, be careful to distinguish between the editorial staff's choices and the ads made to look just like them.

Incidentally, this issue of Conservation Matters is the first under the leadership of Dan Levin, who introduces himself to readers as a former outdoors writer for Sports Illustrated who spent childhood summers on the North Shore. The 42-page magazine - largely devoid of ads and printed in black and white - is, on balance, read- able and informative.

Bridging the Cape

Crowding on the Cape, which is a key component of the Boston story, also comes up in a third Mass.-produced magazine, Commonwealth, although focused specifically on the bottleneck to the Cape via the Sagamore Bridge. Michael Jonas discusses the plan for a flyover that would put motorists heading south on Route 3 directly onto the bridge, bypassing the rotary that so often seems part of the problem.

State Highway Commissioner Matthew Amorello is quoted saying that the project is a priority, but Jonas finds a couple of doubters. The predictable one represents the politically connected Sorenti family, which owns the busy gas station at the rotary and several other businesses nearby.

But the other one is surprising: Ken Brock, a founding member of the Cape Cod Commission, the regional planning council, questions whether the $30 million wouldn't be more effectively spread among several Cape projects, especially when, flyover or not, motorists are still going to be funneled onto a bridge that has just two lanes heading south.

Commonwealth's opening pages also bring news from two points west, both by Mary Carey. The first checks in with Hancock, a village of about 700 at the state's edge, which voted this spring to retain its elementary school, rather than sending its 55 students to neighboring districts. It's an affecting and slightly amusing portrait of small- town democracy.

The other entry is an exit interview with William Nagle, who in May left the State House as majority leader after more than 25 years' service in the chamber. It's a short item that could have said more. Though Nagle clearly wanted to take the high road out of town, the subtext of his quotes suggest that he had plenty more to say about House Speaker Thomas Finneran. When he says, for example, that "personally, Tom Finneran is my friend," what conclusion can one draw other than that, professionally, he regarded him as an enemy. The item has plenty in it that Finneran might have wanted to comment on, but there appears to have been no attempt to ask.