According to the Washington Post, Midwesterners are building a raft of new coal plants because they "see no alternative."

That puts in fairly stark terms the way energy debates proceed here in the U.S. It goes like this:

Rising demand is non-negotiable. Low prices are non-negotiable. Energy alternatives that accommodate sharply rising demand without raising prices are acceptable. Energy alternatives that rely on reducing demand growth or raising prices are off the table.

As long as those are the terms of the debate, coal is inevitable. Rising GHG emissions are inevitable. Global warming is inevitable, along with rising sea levels, droughts, and the rest.

Americans need to face the problem squarely. Are we so averse to difficult or expensive short-term decisions that we’re willing to consign the world’s poor and future generations to climatic chaos?

Every one of these coal plants will be belching CO2 in the atmosphere for 60 years. Together they will render moot any other emissions reductions we make. Is that really something we’re willing to accept?