Everyone is justifiably excited about the good news out of California, but a much more representative microcosm of the climate debate can be found in the great state of Texas.

Texas leads the nation in GHG emissions — it spews more than Canada or the U.K. It has no plan for reducing those emissions. It has rejected legislative efforts to reduce them for years. In essence, Governor Rick Perry has said that he won’t do anything until the feds do, which we all know is never.

Now it seems Texas is set to dramatically increase its emissions.

The state may soon approve the construction of 16 old-school coal-fired power plants:

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Reader support helps sustain our work. Donate today to keep our climate news free. All donations TRIPLED!

The approval of 16 new power plants that burn coal, by far the most carbon-intensive fuel for making electricity, would add an estimated 117 million tons of carbon dioxide a year, more than the individual emissions from 33 other states and 177 countries.

The power companies say cleaner-burning coal technologies aren’t "proven." The business lobby and the governor’s office say curbs on GHG gases would hurt the economy.

I ask you: what will it do for the 21st century Texas economy for the state to be seen as a backwater that is single-handedly undoing the efforts of thousands of other people, communities, states, and countries to address the principle problem of our time? For it to be home to pollution-spewing 19th century technology? Is that really going to help the economy?

As usual, it’s the urbanites fighting it:

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Dallas Mayor Laura Miller and Houston Mayor Bill White announced last week that their cities and 15 others — with a combined population of about 6.2 million, or nearly one-third of all Texans — would fight the new coal plants before state regulators or in court. They said carbon dioxide emissions were a big factor in their decision.

And as usual, its the rural communities fighting for their right to be exploited in exchange for a short-term economic boost:

Some local officials support the coal expansion, however. TXU last week released a list of 31 public or private organizations supporting the coal strategy in the small towns where it would build the plants. They include cities, counties, school boards, economic development agencies and chambers of commerce.

Perhaps most absurdly, the power company that stands to gain the most from the plants is offering as some kind of compensation … nuclear plants:

TXU also said last week that it would spend up to $2 billion researching carbon dioxide solutions and would build up to six new nuclear reactors at as many as three sites by 2020. Nuclear power raises safety and radioactive-waste issues, but it emits no carbon dioxide.

TXU says its carbon research, investment in wind power, and nuclear plans show a long-term commitment to cutting its greenhouse gases.

Its new nuclear units wouldn’t replace any of the proposed coal plants.

Its "long-term commitment to cutting its greenhouse gases" begins with the construction of GHG factories that will be locked into operation for at least 30 years and ends with heavily gov’t-subsidized research in nuclear power. What a sick joke.

The national media needs to start paying attention to this. Sixteen new coal-fired plants represent a huge blow to any national effort to reduce emissions — it matters a hell of a lot more than Al Gore’s carbon offsets or Wal-Mart’s truck fleet.

The public interest stands to be substantially harmed for the private benefit of a handful of energy companies. Will the nation stand by and let it happen?