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Paying much attention to the Bush energy plan? I thought not; it's hard to take George W. and his crusty bunch of '70s retreads seriously.

We all know what's going on, don't we? It's payback time for the president's petroleum investment group (a.k.a. "campaign contributors"), and they'd like to see a little return on their investment. Specifically, they'd like to drill for gas/oil in a number of areas that have been off-limits for the last two decades.

You've gotta give George W. the first annual Bill Clinton Award for Political Maneuvering. By including Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as a drilling target, he's diverted attention from his real goals. Bush, Cheney & Co. are not fools; they know that there's no chance that Congress will go along with drilling in the ANWR.

But while the environmental community is foaming at the mouth, the real plans receive little scrutiny, and even less public attention.

And what are those plans? They're no secret. Bush hopes to open up millions of acres of public lands to exploration, drilling and production.

And where are those lands? For the most part, right here in our fair state.

And what impact will this have on us, on our economy, on our environment, on the viewscape and on our social structures? We don't have a clue; and, since the plan also calls for sharply curtailing or even eliminating such things as environmental impact statements, we're not likely to learn much until it's a done deal.

Predictably, the state's business/Republican establishment is ecstatic. One of the boys in the local oil bidness was quoted as saying, "We're the Kuwait of natural gas right here in Colorado."

He's right. We're a lot like Kuwait. We've got enormous energy reserves, and we're an energy colony. Regardless of the long-term interests of the state of Colorado and its citizens, those resources are going to be extracted, transported out of state and burned.

A decade or two hence, we'll be left with a selectively ravaged environment, a bunch of unemployed folks, and no more natural gas. If our state politicos were even a little thoughtful, they'd be cutting tough deals with the Feds and with the energy companies, making sure that our interests were protected.

But given that Gov. Owens used to be a lobbyist for the petroleum industry, we can expect the state to roll over happily for the Gov's buddies. Most likely, we'll wind up like Louisiana: poor and polluted, sadder and wiser.

Meanwhile, perusing the magazine rack at the local supermarket, it's clear that the truly informed person only needs two mags: Vanity Fair and The National Enquirer. Forget all the boring stuff in the New York Times, the National Review, Time and the like -- let's cut to the chase and learn about ... Bill Clinton's women!

This month, Vanity Fair devoted a couple of articles to the Marc Rich pardon, including a couple of smoldering glam shots of Marc's mega-rich ex, songwriter Denise Rich. After exhaustive analysis of the pardon's genesis, the magazine's conclusion was simple: "He did it for Denise." The Enquirer, by contrast, thinks that Bill's got the hots for the beauteous Patricia Duff, a 40-something New Yorker who has married and divorced a pair of zillionaires.

Seems to me that these mags are onto something. Note that the ex-pres is never linked to poor women, only those who are both beautiful and rich. Reagan, Ford, Bush and Nixon may have returned to their drab and dowdy middle-class roots, but not our Bill! The Tabs see him as a present-day Jackie Kennedy, or a Princess Diana. In their view, he needs a gorgeous billionairess on his arm; he needs to live large. He owes it to us; it'd be his way of living out our fantasies, of renewing that mysterious connection between Clinton and America.

So Bill, far from being a respected elder statesman, is somewhere out there with Julia, Puffy and J-Lo. He's a diversion, like drilling in the ANWR, or "Screwdriver" Doug Dean chasing his girlfriend down the street. He makes work a lot easier for the dinosaurs of the Bush Restoration, dull middle-aged white guys without a shred of glamour, whose unreported revolution may affect every Coloradan.

But being an energy colony may not be all bad. After all, Louisiana may be polluted, but at least they've got New Orleans and gumbo. And we may get a lot of bad stuff, but we'll still have Rocky Mountain Oysters and Briargate ...

-- jhazlehurst@csindy.com

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