Energy: At a "Three Amigos" summit in Ottawa this week, President Obama and the leaders of Canada and Mexico will pledge that in less than a decade, half of North America's energy will come from "clean" sources. The administration calls it "ambitious." We call it "ludicrous."
Since the U.S. accounts for three-quarters of the total energy produced by these three countries, the responsibility of living up to any such agreement would fall most heavily on the U.S. So is there a reasonable chance that the U.S. could achieve such a goal?
Let's look at some of the relevant facts.
According to the Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration, "clean energy" -- nuclear, hydroelectric, solar, wind, biomass, etc. -- makes up less than one-fifth of U.S. energy production.
Nuclear accounts for a little more than 8%, biomass just over 4%, solar and wind 3%, hydroelectric a bit more than 2%.
So the only way to get there would be to dramatically increase one or all of these sources in nine years.
But environmentalists don't particularly like hydroelectricity, since it involves damming up rivers. In fact, they've successfully pushed to have many existing hydroelectric dams torn down. Unless this outlook suddenly changes, hydropower's share of energy isn't going to budge. In fact, the EIA expects it to be flat for the next 40 years.
How about nuclear? Even if the government decided to go whole hog for nuclear, it wouldn't make any difference over the next decade. The permitting, construction and approval process alone would take more than nine years. And that's assuming environmentalists don't oppose such a plant every step of the way.
Nuclear industry officials say they expect just five new reactors to enter service by 2020, and some of that supply will just replace plants that are aging out of service. The youngest nuclear power plant in the United States — Tennessee's Watts Bar 1 — is 20 years old.
As a result, the EIA forecasts that nuclear-powered energy production will be roughly the same in 2025 as it is today.
So that pretty much leaves wind, solar and biomass. But production levels from these sources would have to increase something like 470% in nine years for clean energy to account for half of the nation's energy production.
Then, of course, there's the question of whether our neighbors to the north and south would live up to any promise they make this year.
Is Mexico really going to strap on a clean energy millstone to its still-developing and always-struggling economy? And while Canada's leftist leader, Justin Trudeau, might think it's cool to set such goals, it's not clear Canadians will agree to suffer for his current obsession.
For a guy who is desperately fishing around for something to claim as a legacy, President Obama's running around making promises that he knows will never be kept is an odd way to go about things.