Before President Obama leaves office, he’s making darn sure his legacy sticks. That’s why he and the leaders of Canada and Mexico have agreed to produce half of their power by 2025 from hydropower, nuclear, wind, solar and energy storage, while the coal plants would count if they employ carbon capture.
Indeed, Barack Obama, Justin Trudeau and Enrique Peña Nieto will meet in Ottawa today to sign the agreement; collectively, the countries are now at 37 percent. Getting there might be a challenge — and easy fodder for critics, who say that to do so would require tilting the playing field and prejudicing fossil fuels.
Earlier in his administration, Obama had broadly defined clean energy to include such things as coal plants that use advanced technologies to capture and bury the carbon emissions, and carbon-free nuclear power. Using such a definition, the US gets about a third of its power from clean energy while Mexico gets about 20 percent. The US gets about 11 percent of its electricity from traditional greens like wind, solar and hydro. Nuclear provides about 19 percent. The deal, though, would allow for energy sales across borders, which would count toward the clean energy goals.
According to Reuters, Mexico now gets 20 percent of its electricity from clean sources. (Mexico is deregulating its electricity sector and allowing private investment into once-tightly held state enterprises.) By 2024, it could hit 35 percent. Canada, meanwhile, gets 81 percent of its power from hydro, solar, wind and nuclear.
As for the US, its success is contingent on part on the legal outcome of the Clean Power Plan, which is now back in the hands of an appellate court after the US Supreme Court said that costs must be considered relative to benefits. It would require 32 percent cuts in carbon emissions by 2030, from a 2005 baseline.