Join 3,430 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Mexico passes ambitious climate change law
April 26, 2012 12:18 PM   Subscribe

Mexico passes ambitious climate change law to reduce carbon emissions by 30 percent below 2000 levels by 2020, and 50 percent below 2000 levels by 2050. The law also stipulates that 35 percent of Mexico's electricity should come from renewable sources by the year 2024. It joins the United Kingdom in having legally binding emissions goals aimed at stemming the effects of climate change.
posted by stbalbach (25 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Gusta!
posted by special-k at 12:22 PM on April 26, 2012


And it will join the UK in failing to meet them. If only redesigning our energy infrastructure were as easy as passing a law. What is Mexico actually doing to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions?
posted by Dasein at 12:26 PM on April 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Good luck, Mexico. And I do mean that sincerely.

I just don't believe it's going to happen given their track record.
posted by Malice at 12:31 PM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


...legally binding...

So if they miss the goals, what happens?
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 12:52 PM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well normally what happens is an environmental activist group will sue whoever missed the goal and it will go to the courts and the courts will rule on it and then fine them or whatever the law says. But this assumes there is a strong environmental movement with the money and expertise required to pursue it through the courts, it takes resources to do that and the environmental movement isn't as well funded as it needs to be to fight all the infractions. Theoretically the government itself monitors, such as the EPA, but due to politics, they are often (but not always) ineffective.
posted by stbalbach at 1:00 PM on April 26, 2012


Considering how little control the DF has over the provinces these days, I think the Mexican government could pass any damn law they want.

Reduce emmisions by 30% by 2020: PASSED!
2 peso Tacos on Tuesdays: PASSED!
Drug Trafficking "Illegal": PASSED!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 1:00 PM on April 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


...legally binding...

So if they miss the goals, what happens?


The cartels open fire.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 1:40 PM on April 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Mexico Oil Exports Could End Within Decade, Report Warns (nyt)

Oil exports from Mexico have declined in part due to increasing demand for oil products in Mexico, as well as the fact that their production is past its peak. The government depends on oil revenue, it's very much in the national interest to reduce its domestic use, which happens to be the source of a majority of their CO2 emissions.

So yeah, they might take it seriously enough to get something done.
posted by sfenders at 1:46 PM on April 26, 2012


Seeing the "Fart Cloud" [not Mexican-ist] over TJ from the Point Loma coast many a time I wish them success. Besides, I believe we ship our naughty manufacturing over there because of the lack of environmental regulation along with cheaper labor. While I don't think it will bring those jobs home, it will push off that pollution farther away from where I live.
posted by The Power Nap at 2:28 PM on April 26, 2012


Mexico is a champion; Mexico doesn't receive an adequate volume of good press for the growth they've built.

GDP growth: $262B (2000) to $1.03T (2010) - 20% per annum average
Government debt: 37.5% of GDP (2011); US = 69.4% of GDP (2011)
Unemployment rate: 5.1% (2011); UK = 8%
Mexican crime is actually down, despite current events: Murder rate from 17 (1997) to 14 (2011) per 100,000. (Apparently it was lower in 2005, to 10 per 100k)

The point being that Mexico has a great opportunity to implement technologies like solar, demand continues to grow, and oil is constrained (as mentioned above).

One of the difficulties 'developed' nations have in carbon reduction and energy production are economies rooted in fossil fuels. 'Developing' nations are not completely rooted and quite dynamic -- and they don't want to repeat the mistakes of developed nations. Entire economies that run on fossil fuels depend on a cadre of less stable nations to keep them running. Strong building, weak foundation.

I heard a speaker last week use the terminology, "New" economies and "Antique" economies. Each BRIC grew at an average of 16% over the last decade whilst developed economies grew at half that. Of the top twelve economies, a decade ago BRIC contributed 13%. Today, that figure is 26%.

It is less expensive and disruptive for Mexico to go clean tech. The economic models work out much better when you are financing non-existant energy generation, than competing to replace old generation. Whilst developed nations will slowly replace fossil generation and paying much higher OPEX costs, developing nations are investment more in renewable CAPEX, drastically reducing OPEX costs. Not only developing nations, Norway too.

Mexico will be a leader of this movement. Mexico is a champion.
posted by nickrussell at 3:10 PM on April 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


And it will join the UK in failing to meet them. If only redesigning our energy infrastructure were as easy as passing a law. What is Mexico actually doing to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions?
Okay so you live in Canada, which has one of the one of the worst records on greenhouse gas emissions on the planet and has gone out of it's way to stymie international agreements.

In 2007 Canada put out 16.5 metric tons of CO2 per person. That same year Mexico put out 4.4 tons per capita

So basically you live in a country that puts out 4x as much CO2 as Mexico per person, and your saying they're not doing enough? Seriously?

Anyway, just because there are a lot of global warming deniers in north America doesn't mean the rest of the planet is insane. The fact that you live in a country that's putting out 4x as much carbon as Mexico and too lazy and greedy to change is no reason to think other countries are as incapable.

Besides, it should be pretty easy for Mexico to use solar. They are closer to the equator and have tons of deserts with tons of sunlight that would be perfect for solar energy.

Mexico currently uses about 2MWh per person per year, and they have plenty of land that gets the equivalent six hours of sunlight per day, year round. So you you would use 365*26/6 = 1,582 hours * x = 2MWh

In that case, x = 2MW/1,582 = 1.264kW of solar panels per person. For the cost of the panels alone, today, for as little as $1.06 per watt.

That means, essentially, that mexico could generate all of it's needed electricity for about $1,340 per person. And costs continue to drop. Last year it would have cost twice as much. Next year? who knows?

Now obviously, with panels dropping so rapidly that the cost of actual installation is starting to become more of a factor. I'm not sure what the current costs are for setup per kWH are at the moment, but I don't think they're that much.

Anyway, the point is it's more then doable, especially since they don't generate much electricity as it is. It would be much more difficult to do in Canada, both because you use way more power, and because you get a lot less sunlight.

But in any event, Climate pessimism really gets on my nerves. Just because you're country is unwilling or unable to do anything doesn't mean the rest of the planet feels the same way.
posted by delmoi at 3:31 PM on April 26, 2012 [8 favorites]


@nickrussel

Mexico's GDP growth from 2000 to 2010 has been about ~2% per annum.

Mexico's GDP at PPP in 2000 was ~880 Bn
posted by sien at 3:44 PM on April 26, 2012


Oil exports from Mexico have declined in part due to increasing demand for oil products in Mexico, as well as the fact that their production is past its peak. The government depends on oil revenue, it's very much in the national interest to reduce its domestic use, which happens to be the source of a majority of their CO2 emissions.
In contrast to Canada which is going through a oil boom from tar sands. You would think the U.S would be in the same position as Mexico. Our oil production peaked in the 1960s. We import tons -- Actually about 1.5 billion tons (~10 billion barrels). In fact, we stopped importing oil our trade deficit would disappear.

Unfortunately our government is so corrupt we're handing out cash to oil companies while government support for clean tech is practically non-existent.

Meanwhile, China is dumping cash into it's solar panel companies, becoming the world's major supplier, which is one of the major reasons the cost of panels has crashed. China is going to own this industry, as it becomes more and more important globally, the amount of solar panel installs is growing rapidly. That chart actually shows the number of panels made that year, not the total installed capacity.

In 2011 another 37.2 GW of panels were made. Adjust that for insolation and you get maybe 6/10 GW of new solar coming online each year, in terms of actual real world capacity over the course of a year.

In absolute terms, Mexico uses about 220 TWh of electricity a year. Since "hours" and "years" are both time terms, they cancel out and you get 25.0975016 gigawatts.

So already, worldwide enough solar panels were produced in 2011 to cover about 40% of Mexico's electricity needs. And each of the past few years has seen massive growth in the number of panels produced. Analyists are predicting about 52GW being made this year.

Anyway, the point is that given current solar cell production Mexico could easily meet it's goal in one year - if they bought up all the panels.

The only problem, of course, is that other countries want these panels too.

Now again, you have to be careful to keep 'peak' capacity and 'average' capacity separate. 52GW refers to peak, while you multiply by the average daily sunlight rate to get the overall annual rate. If you want to convert from watts to GWh/year (which is redundant) you just multiply the peak capacity times the insolation time 365.


Now, that said germany has about 27GW peak capacity of solar panels, generating about 18TWh per year. that's 3.2% of their total power use, and equivalent to 5.4% of mexico's.

Rather then trying to estimate from the peak capacity and insolation, let's just look at how much energy they actually generated.

Germany generated went from 12 TWh/year to 18 TWh/year in 2011, an increase of 6TWh

So, let's assume that in practice Mexico gets about as much sunlight per year as Germany. If we make that assumption, Mexico would be able to generate 30% of it's electricity by solar in 12 years, and all of it in 36 years simply by installing solar as quickly as Germany did in 2011 - And in reality it would take less time since they get more sunlight.

It's definitely practical. Obviously they might try something other then solar, but I'm not sure what. The nice thing about solar is that, especially in hot climates what people use power to do is run air conditioners. But the only reason they need to run AC in the first place is because of the heat generated by the sun, so you get solar power exactly when you need it. Winter heating probably won't be as big of a deal in Mexico, I would imagine.
posted by delmoi at 4:17 PM on April 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


'than' - (eg: less than zero); 'then' - (eg: then, something happened).
posted by a non e mouse at 4:21 PM on April 26, 2012


Mexico's GDP growth from 2000 to 2010 has been about ~2% per annum.
That chart is per quarter, not per year.

Like most countries, Mexico's GDP tanked in 2009, but they bounced back in 2010, so the annual rate from '9 to '10 was actually about 15%
Mexico's GDP at PPP in 2000 was ~880 Bn
You're comparing nominal and PPP GDP.

Nominal GDP from 2000 to 2010: $581 billion -> $1.034 Trillion
PPP adjusted GNP from 2000 to 2010 $878 billion -> $1.6214 Trillion

Anyway, that's a 43% increase in GDP and a 45% increase in PPP GNP. I think that works out to the equivalent of 6.32% if you do compounding interest.
posted by delmoi at 4:33 PM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, now that we know Mexico's energy use and GDP, we can calculate what %GDP they would need switch to solar. In order to buy, say 25 GW over a year, they'd probably need about 100-150 GW of peak capacity. So about 10%-15% of their GDP to switch over in one year

Spread that out over 5 years and it would only require 2% GDP, or just 1% GDP over 10 years.

Again, not very expensive at all

That said, this is just the cost of the panels themselves, not the install cost. Right now the largest solar plant in the world is currently up to about 214MW peak capacity, and it cost about $280 million dollars. So the total install cost was just about $1.30/Wp.

And that's a real system, setup and running today. The total system it's a part of had 521MW installed in 3/2012, and generated 256.25 Tera joules in a month, for an overall rate of about 97MW overall capacity. (or 850GWh/year if you prefer that measure). That comes out to about $2.8/W of overall capacity.

I calculate that as about 4.46h/day of isolation, although Wikipedia lists it as 4.95.

Compare that to the second largest nuclear power plant, currently putting out about 4.6GW. The cost was $1.8 billion 1978 dollars + $6 billion 1989 dollars $5.95 + $10.41 = $16.36 billion 2010 dollars. Or about $3.5/W (overall, not peak).

Right now, the current cost of a coal plant is supposedly about $2.1 just for construction (according to this article from '07). But, unlike sunlight, the coal isn't free :)

---

Another hopeful sign, check out the list of the largest solar installs. Most of the very biggest were built last year.
posted by delmoi at 5:20 PM on April 26, 2012


@delmoi : Woops. Very true.

But nowhere near 20% for an average.

The nominal/PPP growth was just extra on the figures there.

Your start figure is still double the one quoted originally though.
posted by sien at 6:47 PM on April 26, 2012


Mexico is a champion; Mexico doesn't receive an adequate volume of good press for the growth they've built.

People like to paint it as a failed narco state, a hapless victim of the American Drug War. Which is true in certain places near the US border and in the Sierra Madre mountains. But Mexico is much more, indeed those northern parts of Mexico culturally have as much in common with the US than the rest of Mexico!
posted by stbalbach at 7:30 PM on April 26, 2012


Another hopeful sign, check out the list of the largest solar installs. Most of the very biggest were built last year.

Those are PV plants. The solar thermal plants are even bigger. Generally utility scale solar has been thermal, but with the costs coming down there are more utility scale PV plants. Each project is different, PV vs thermal is like gas vs diesel, each has pros and cons and the future will see a mix.
posted by stbalbach at 7:40 PM on April 26, 2012


Those are PV plants. The solar thermal plants are even bigger.

Maybe in 2010 :)

It depends on how you define "plant" thought, The largest on that list is the SEGS system is actually made up of nine separate facilities, the largest of which are 80MWp.

On the other hand the Gujarat Solar Park is one "Project" And is currently putting out 605MWp. The largest Single facility is the Charanka Solar Park which is currently putting out 214MWp.

And it's going to be expanded to 500MW by 2013, so it will be bigger then concentrating thermal.

Concentrating was obviously cheaper years ago when SEGS was built, but it's not the case anymore.

The "size" of a PV install is kind of ambiguous, since technically a single panel is an independent unit - it's not like a nuke plant or a coal plant. And it also means that a plant can start generating power as you build it, which is obviously a huge advantage for investors. You can invest at any scale. With nuclear, it's a few billion or nothing, there's a huge risk and it takes a decade to build the thing.

It's close to the point that, if you were to take the money you were going to use to build a nuke plant and invested in solar energy - the solar plant will have paid for itself before the nuke plant even starts up.

posted by delmoi at 3:32 AM on April 27, 2012


So basically you live in a country that puts out 4x as much CO2 as Mexico per person, and your saying they're not doing enough? Seriously?

Uh, WTF? Am I the Prime Minsiter of Canada suddenly? Why does the peformance of the country I happen to live in invalidate my opinion of some other country's policies?

Passing a law is useless tokenism unless it's backed up with something. Canada's had lots of CO2 reduction targets; it's blown through all of them. I don't think there's a single country on earth that will meet its reduction targets. It's extraordinarily expensive to rebuild housing stock to make it super-efficient. It's not happening anywhere near the scale that would be required. Natural gas prices are tanking, so there's very little incentive to use it sparingly.

Electricity generation? We could do a lot. I think that humanity should be working to build thousands of fourth-generation nuclear plants; that's not happening. Wind and solar will never be able to provide the amount of reliable power that humanity needs.

Transport? Nothing compares to the energy density of fossil fuels. As battery prices drop, there will be better uptake of hybrids and plug-in electrics, but is a 40% reduction going to happen in the next eight years? No way in hell.

Mexico can pass all the laws it wants. Doesn't mean anything. You want to disagree, go ahead. You want to say that I'm somehow barred from saying this because I live in Canada? That's about as stupid an objection as I can imagine.
posted by Dasein at 7:19 AM on April 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Uh, WTF? Am I the Prime Minsiter of Canada suddenly? Why does the peformance of the country I happen to live in invalidate my opinion of some other country's policies? ... anada's had lots of CO2 reduction targets; it's blown through all of them.
If you live in a country that can't handle it, it might seem more difficult then it is.
We could do a lot. I think that humanity should be working to build thousands of fourth-generation nuclear plants; that's not happening.
Solar is already cheaper then nuclear.
posted by delmoi at 8:50 AM on April 27, 2012


Solar is already cheaper then nuclear.

And when the sun shines through the night, it will be an alternative.
posted by Dasein at 9:06 AM on April 27, 2012


And when the sun shines through the night, it will be an alternative.

It's my understanding that the moon also produces solar light and with better solar panels you can absorb quite a bit through the night as well. But don't quote me, I could be absolutely wrong on that.
posted by Malice at 11:21 AM on April 27, 2012


And when the sun shines through the night, it will be an alternative.

The sun shines 24/7, It's just that the earth rotates so you can't see it.

Second of all, "alternative" to what?

If the goal is simply to reduce carbon emissions by 30% It's more then enough. Most electricity is used during the day. Most of the electricity that is used at night for industrial processes that are specifically done at night because electricity is cheaper -- as you shift to solar, that use would shift to the day, as power on the daytime side of the earth would be cheaper.

Ultimately though there are other options, biofuel -- which is actually a form of solar power -- could be used, and wind power could generate some.

To get all the power you need, though you could create a global power grid and transport the energy using undersea HVDC cables from the UK through Iceland/Greenland to Canada, as well as cables from Russia to Alaska. (There's already an Iceland/UK line proposed)

But more importantly, worrying about how to generate power at night is a kind of ridiculous reason to dismiss solar energy. It's not something we need to worry about until all of our daytime energy use is taken care of.
posted by delmoi at 12:42 PM on April 28, 2012


« Older The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has announce...  |  A working Star Wars arcade cab... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments