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Christopher Flavelle

Talk Is Cheap. Renewable Energy Isn't.

Clinton and Obama conveniently skip mentioning the obstacles.
We'll need more of all of it.

We'll need more of all of it.

Photographer: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

If promises matter, it's been a very good stretch for renewable power. At the end of July, Hillary Clinton said that as president she would aim to get 33 percent of the U.S.'s electricity from renewable sources by 2027 -- up from about 13 percent today (half of it from hydro). A week later, the Barack Obama administration said its new power-plant rules would require renewables to make up 28 percent of power capacity by 2030. 

The political and legal obstacles to those goals are obvious. But behind them are more interesting questions: Is it even possible for the U.S. to increase so quickly the share of power it gets from renewables -- mostly solar and wind, given the public animosity to nuclear power -- by the end of the next decade? If so, what will it cost? And who would pay?