In 2009, greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. experienced their biggest drop since the U.S. Energy Information Administration began tracking them during the 1990-2009 timeframe.
The EIA’s latest numbers on greenhouse gas emissions can be found in their just released report “Emissions of Greenhouse Gases in the United States 2009.” The EIA starts out with this summary:
Total U.S. anthropogenic (human-caused) greenhouse gas emissions in 2009 were 5.8 percent below the 2008 total. The decline in total emissions—from 6,983 million metric tons carbon dioxide equivalent (MMTCO2e) in 2008 to 6,576 MMTCO2e in 2009—was the largest since emissions have been tracked over the 1990-2009 time frame. It was largely the result of a 419-MMTCO2e drop in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions (7.1 percent).
Why, pray tell, did such a large emission drop occur in 2009? According to the EIA:
The decrease in U.S. CO2 emissions in 2009 resulted primarily from three factors: an economy in recession, a particularly hard-hit energy-intensive industries sector, and a large drop in the price of natural gas that caused fuel switching away from coal to natural gas in the electric power sector.
In Figure 1 we show the history of carbon dioxide emissions—primary among the greenhouse gases—in the U.S. from 1990-2009. We also include the emissions history from China, for comparative purposes.
Figure 1. Annual carbon dioxide emissions from the United States (blue) and China (red), 1990-2009 (data source, EIA).
Notice several things:
* U.S. CO2 emissions in 2009 were the lowest since 1995.
* The trend in U.S. carbon dioxide emissions has been downward since 1999.
* China’s CO2 emissions have increased by about 175% since 1999.
* In 2009, China’s emissions were 42% greater than ours.
The trend in China’s CO2 emissions since 1999 is 508mmtCO2/yr—a value equal to about 1/10th of the U.S. total annual emissions. Think about this for a minute.
The plans that are kicked around in Congress from time to time (although certainly less so this year), typically call for a reduction in U.S. CO2 emissions roughly on this schedule: 20% in 2020, 40% in 2030, and 80% by 2050.
Now, consider that currently China adds to its total CO2 emissions an equivalent of 10% of the U.S. baseline emissions each year. So, if everything went according to plan, as the U.S. worked to reduce its emissions by 20% by 2020, China meanwhile will have increased their total by about quadruple that amount. And the numbers get worse from there.
So you can see the inherent silliness in using “climate change” as a reason for pushing for reductions in U.S. carbon dioxide emissions. In fact, U.S. politicians who are thinking that their first responsibility should be towards improving the situation for Americans here and now, ought to be seeking out ways to get the U.S. CO2 emissions heading upwards again.
We say this because two the three reasons given by the EIA for the recent drop in U.S. CO2 emissions have to do with the poor economic times. Turn around the economy and you will turn around emissions. What about the third reason—increased electricity production from natural gas?
Burning natural gas does actually reduce CO2 emissions per unit energy produced, but, in terms keeping the trend of total U.S. CO2 emissions in the negative territory, this effect is probably trumped by the hard economy. Further, there is a hot-off-the-presses new study that suggests that the carbon dioxide savings from natural gas acquired through hydraulic fracturing (a fast-growing technique to recover loads of natural gas domestically) may actually be (more than) offset by the by-product release of methane during the extraction process (Howarth et al., 2011). So the climate benefits of switching to natural gas (from coal) to produce electricity are perhaps not as great as they are being touted. We’re sure we’ll be hearing more about this—in fact, stay tuned to these pages because we are working through the Howarth et al. article and will post our findings soon!
So, what’s in store for 2010? Probably more of the same—that is, a relatively low level of carbon dioxide emission from the U.S.—as the circumstances that led to the low value in 2009 were pretty much the same as the situation in 2010. Hopefully, for all our sakes, the trend won’t stay negative for too much longer—at least not for the current reasons.
SOURCE (See the original for references)
High Prices, Debt Crisis May Doom Obama's Green Energy Plans
As Congress and President Obama spar over spending cuts for the next year and beyond, new questions are being raised over whether the U.S. can afford the clean energy subsidies that the president has championed in several appearances this year and in his budget for fiscal year 2012.
Obama is asking taxpayers to cough up $8 billion in clean energy subsidies next year -- $3.2 billion for energy efficiency and renewable energy programs, $300 million in credit subsidies to promote those projects, and another $550 million dollars to support "game-changing clean energy technologies."
"We say to the utilities, you've got to get this much energy from renewable sources, and then wind is competing with solar, which is competing with natural gas. And there's a healthy competition out there," the president said at a recent town hall meeting at a wind turbine plant run by Gamesa Technology Corporation in Fairless Hills, Pa.
But critics question whether there really is healthy competition among old fossil and new clean technologies when subsidies are taken out of the equation. "When companies come to Congress or to the federal trough for their renewable project, it usually means that they have failed in the private sector," said Marc Morano, of Climate Depot, a website devoted to debunking the theory of man-made climate change.
He says an increasing number of studies point to deep inefficiencies of many so-called clean energies. "In Europe, it's actually costing more to heat the windmills than the windmills are producing in the winter in the United Kingdom. I mean they're just not energy efficient," Morano said.
But supporters of the clean energy subsidies counter that fossil fuel production has long been subsidized. "Clearly there's a double standard," said Kevin Smith of Solar Reserve, a company that builds utility scale solar arrays in the Southwest U.S. "If you look at what's happened with natural gas, oil and coal subsidies over the last 50 years, those industries have received billions and billions of dollars. They've built profitable industries that are now very successful."
Even Morano suggests that as the technologies evolve, renewable energies may one day prove to be more competitive. But that day may be a long way off.
Indeed, a recent article in the Las Vegas Sun which examines a heavily subsidized solar array project outside of Boulder City, Nev., supports much of what Morano claims. The piece profiles a huge 775,000 solar panel array built and operated by Sempra Generation. Taxpayers fronted $42 million in tax credits for the array -- fully a third of it's total cost. While the project created about 350 construction jobs at a time of near record high unemployment, it now employs only five full time workers and provides no electricity to Nevada.
A spokesman for Sempra Generation told Fox News that the project, built last year, has now become a net revenue generator for taxpayers, and produces enough electricity for about 14,000 homes. The company mostly sells it's electricity to utilities in California.
For some, the larger question is whether the Obama administration, in the present climate of belt-tightening will allow carbon-based energies to truly compete with renewables on a level playing field -- a subsidy-free playing field.
Days before his confirmation as secretary of energy, Steven Chu told an interviewer that the United States needed to get gasoline prices up to European levels, where current prices are hovering around $8 a gallon. More than two years later, that hope is approaching reality -- a result of increasing world demand, instability in key oil producing regions of the world and the Obama administration's resistance to freeing up domestic federal lands and waters to oil and natural gas drilling as well as coal mining.
The limit of a fragile economy's tolerance for high energy prices may be tested in the months to come, as will the president's hopes for a clean energy future.
“Sustainability” isn’t sustainable
Not even in your dreams
A number of college and universities have introduced “Sustainability Studies.” Of course, “sustainability” is just another term for environmentalism, but it exposes the mentality of the environmental movement very well. The idea is that unless we are forced use fewer resources, we will not be able to sustain our life on earth and humanity will disappear or at best face massive disaster.
So we have to introduce a number of things into our daily lives that will help us to “live green.” It all sounds good at the various rallies and “living green” meetings that are held regularly not only at our campus, but also at campuses all over the country. Students and others are told that they have to stop “wasting energy” and lower their “impact” by eating foods that pass political muster, and purchase goods that have the “sustainability” seal of approval.
What sounds good, however, often is not, and “sustainability” has become yet another scam – yes, scam – the statists have foisted on people in the name of saving humanity and planet earth. I will go even further: What is called “sustainability” is not even sustainable, not by a long shot. The irony is that the very implementation of “sustainable” policies will needlessly make life more difficult for everyone.
We are not even speaking about future events. The “food for fuel” mandates that are coming from governments around the world in the name of “sustainability” have helped drive up food prices and have worked real hardships on poor people. Moreover, food-based fuels, such as ethanol made from corn, are heavily subsidized and are imposed by government mandate.
Government is forcing individuals to do what they never would want to do on their own: pour a version of whiskey into their cars instead of drinking it.
Not surprisingly, food-based fuels have a large constituency (although that constituency does not happen to include consumers of those fuels), and associated groups make political contributions and welcome rhetoric from politicians. For example, Newt Gingrich, who sounds like he’s running for the next year’s Republican presidential nomination, recently called for the government to mandate that all cars built in the United States be “flex-fuel,” enabling them to use ethanol.
Forcing consumers to purchase cars that they refuse to buy now only furthers our understanding of the intellectual bankruptcy and economic illiteracy that people like Gingrich promote. (Gingrich claimed that such a mandate would allow the ethanol industry to “stand on its own,” as though forcing Americans to use costly, inferior fuel would revitalize the U.S. economy, as he and others claim.)
The other darling of the sustainability movement is the building of thousands of electricity-generating windmills. Ironically, many environmentalists oppose these supposed “clean-energy” contraptions because they kill birds and change the landscape. Of course these projects also are heavily subsidized by government. But as electricity producers, they hardly are panaceas.
In 2009 President Barack Obama told Congress he would use “clean energy” to help “rebuild the economy.” Given that all the clean-energy pet projects seem to be subsidized, Obama was claiming that his government could bring about a recovery by giving huge subsidies to politically favored industries.
Economically, that is impossible. What Obama was saying was that he could rebuild a moribund economy by cannibalizing those still-healthy industries and transferring resources to those portions of the economy that never could stand on their own without government coercion.
Not only is that idea delusional, it also puts the government on an economic path that is unsustainable. Government can no more save the economy by destroying than the U.S. armed forces could save Vietnam by bombing it into the Stone Age.
While “sustainability” is little more than rhetoric, it is harmful rhetoric, as it carries the appeal to outright government coercion. Economically speaking, sustainability cannot sustain itself. Instead, it promotes a parasitic state that drains an economy – and its people – of energy and vitality.
The green jobs myth
One gets the sense from the rhetoric coming out of the Obama administration that the main road to recovery and future economic growth will be paved by an energetic federal commitment to renewable energy (often referred to as "green" energy). Such a state-directed campaign, they tell us, will create millions of new jobs and cement America's global economic leadership in the 21st century. If they really believe this, we're in a lot of trouble.
On its face, the argument that green energy is more labor intensive than "brown" (fossil fuel and nuclear) energy is dubious. After all, once the wind turbines or photovoltaic panels are put in place, there's no need to mine the earth for fuel and, unless the windmills or panels break down a lot, there's little call for large numbers of workers to keep the generators running.
This is the first clue that something is amiss in the ubiquitous "green jobs" studies that are constantly forwarded to support green energy mandates and subsidies. Careful examination reveals that those studies don't even bother to tally the number of brown energy jobs that might be lost in the transition. Hence, there's no evidence at all that a green energy future would yield more energy jobs than the status quo.
Even if we could find evidence that green energy is more labor intensive than its brown counterpart, that's an argument against green energy because one does not go about creating wealth by maximizing the inputs associated with production. Were that the case, one might suggest that future green energy facilities (and brown, for that matter) be built without any mechanized construction equipment whatsoever — only hand tools allowed!
Nor do we find any consideration in these reports of the economic impact of higher electricity prices. President Obama's own Energy Information Administration estimates, for instance, that for new facilities coming on-line in 2016, biomass will cost 34% more than electricity produced by combined cycle, natural gas-fired power plants; geothermal will cost 39% more; onshore wind will cost 80% more, offshore wind 2.3 times as much, thermal solar 3.1 times as much, and photovoltaic solar a whopping 4.8 times as much.
More money spent on green energy job creation means less money spent on everything else. How many jobs might be lost to that dynamic alone? Again, these reports don't say. The implicit answer seems to be, "none." This strikes us as unlikely. Economist Gabriel Calzada examined green energy mandates in Spain and found that 2.2 jobs were lost for every green job that was created in that country.
Even though renewable sources cost more, some claim that subsidized renewable supply will result in lower electricity prices because of overall increased supply — a phenomenon known as "price suppression" in the literature. This is plausible but misleading. The savings enjoyed by consumers because of additional supply (lower prices multiplied by quantity consumed) can be less than the cost of the renewable power subsidies, but overlooked in such an analysis is the reduction in revenue to existing conventional fuel generation displaced by the new renewable supply.
This wealth transfer from existing non-renewable energy producers to consumers is the source of the reduced prices rather than an overall improvement in economic efficiency. Moreover, mandates and subsidies that serve to substitute green energy for brown will not increase the overall supply of energy and thus will not produce price suppression.
Three other rather straight-forward problems arise in the reports marshaled to justify the administration's green jobs campaign. First, new government employees hired to oversee this green energy shift are counted as "new jobs created." Second, existing jobs are recategorized from brown to green if employers meet some bureaucratically dictated definitional shift to "greenness," and those jobs are misleadingly tallied as "new jobs created." Third, most new manufacturing jobs created to build the equipment necessary for new green power plants are assumed to come from U.S. manufacturers, a highly unlikely prospect given that most of the manufacturers at issue are overseas. Hence, the tallies of job creation from policies designed to promote green energy are about as reliable as Enron balance sheets.
The political obsession with green jobs is particularly odd given that it comes while the nation is experiencing a real — not hypothesized — revolution in "brown" energy in the form of hydraulic fracking, a technology that allows access to natural gas in previously difficult to exploit substrata. Economist Timothy Considine employed the same economic model used by the Pennsylvania Dept. of Labor to estimate the number of policy-created green jobs (ostensibly, the third-highest state total of green jobs in the nation) to estimate the number of jobs created in that same state by fracking.
The model suggests that, in 2009, 44,000 new jobs were created by fracking compared with 35,000 created by government green energy programs. In 2010 89,000 fracking-related jobs were created relative to 40,000 green jobs. And in 2011 another 111,000 new jobs will likely be created by fracking compared with 41,000 green jobs. And remember, that's only if we don't consider the jobs lost from the higher energy costs associated with green energy. In short, if the economy is going to hitch itself to a domestic energy sector to maintain growth in the 21st century, it ought to hitch itself to natural gas, not to the wind or sun.
The arrogant conceit that we can induce economic growth by forcing people to by costly, subsidized energy is absurd in practice as it is in theory. The sooner we realize that, the better.
It’s official: Environmentalism IS the new religion
Robert Nelson, in the Independent Institute’s recent book, The New Holy Wars, points out that environmental religion owes its moral activism, ascetic discipline, reverence for nature, and fallen view of man to the Protestant theology of John Calvin.
Manhattan’s new Church of Earthalujah is perhaps the most striking—though hardly rare—expression of this new religion. Its leader, the Rev. Billy, outlined the church’s purpose and practices in this recent interview.
Asked about influences in his life, Rev. Billy reminisced on the importance of his high school creative writing teacher: "I moved to the East Coast with his family for a bit to get out of a tough Midwestern Calvinist situation."
The tenets of the Church of Earthalujah are based on the view that: "…these freak storms and tsunamis and flocks of blackbirds are not a coincidence—it’s the Earth talking to us. The Earth’s physical systems are in revolt."
Their faith is practiced both in church: "Every Sunday we have a devil and a saint, and the holy writ is the Earth. We have sermons and songs. Scientists give talks."
And on the street: "Friends give us soil from mountains that have been strip-mined and we go into bank lobbies like Chase and Union Bank as if we’ve been invited by an art curator and we sculpt dirt peaks and sing, then exorcise the demon out of the ATMs."
One might be tempted to laugh off such “performance art,” were it not that so many apparently find such tactics absolutely mesmerizing: "…we talked to many middle managers in the lobby at JP Morgan, and now that bank is in negotiations with Rainforest Action Network in San Francisco over their environmental policies."
When corporate policy—not to mention international economic and public policy—is based on faith over fact, may Heaven help us all.
GREENIE ROUNDUP FROM AUSTRALIA
Three current articles below
Friends and foes flay carbon tax
THERE is now a common view among the Gillard government's friends and foes about the additional costs to industry of a carbon tax.
That is, it could be the straw that breaks the camel's back in relation to future investment, the survival of some of the manufacturing sector and the full recovery of a still fragile, patchwork economy.
Company chiefs and shop-floor workers find they are now on the same side. There is also a common view among employers and employees that the government's process and timetable are flawed, short on detail, politically motivated and not guaranteed of success.
Such sentiments may have been shared by some of those same people during the Rudd government's negotiations of the failed carbon pollution reduction scheme, but there have been dramatic changes to the economy, industry, jobs and the body politic since 2009.
Not least among those is the fact the Gillard government is now a minority one dependent on independents and the Greens to get its agenda passed.
Perhaps the biggest difficulty the government faces is that workers' concern for their jobs, whether based on the real impact of the carbon tax or not, is so deep the previous goodwill on climate change, faith in Labor looking after Australian workers and suspicion of Tony Abbott are evaporating. Labor's working heartland is rebelling because of concern for job security and not because they are climate change deniers or extremists. Chief executives of big companies and welders on the shop floor are seeing eye-to-eye on the threats from a carbon tax and the government appears to be losing the argument badly on compensation for want of detail since Julia Gillard announced the carbon tax on February 24.
These changes and difficulties are not just about more complicated and delicate negotiations with MPs on the cross benches but go to the heart of the challenges faced by the government: a lack of authority, a sense of growing cabinet and leadership tension, emboldened critics, community scepticism towards reassurances and a growing list of sections of industry and the community angry with government policies.
A negotiated government born without electoral momentum is sinking as its friends question its ability to get things done and its foes press home an advantage.
Not least among those foes is the Leader of the Opposition, who has played up industry and business concerns on the effect of the tax on investment and development, harped on increased prices for food, petrol and electricity, and argued that the tax will not cut greenhouse emissions.
What's more, Abbott has not only attacked Gillard's integrity about going back on her promise about a carbon tax and run a highly successful negative campaign, he also has started to split Labor from its formal allies in the Greens and labour movement.
Three weeks ago Climate Change Minister Greg Combet told industry leaders the compensation for business for the carbon tax would not go beyond the compensation earmarked for the CPRS in 2009-10 under Kevin Rudd's prime ministership. He told the coal industry not to expect any compensation for coalminers and exporters beyond 2009.
Industry and unions want it to be the starting point.
Combet was told oil refinery investment in Australia was threatened by a carbon tax, help for the natural gas sector had to be revisited and a range of exporting industries were threatened. Shell and Caltex expressed concerns about the future of oil refinery investment in Australia because a series of taxes and costs were accumulating and the carbon tax represented the fatal straw.
Since then the liquefied natural gas industry has sought an exclusion from the tax, at least a rise in free permits to emit greenhouse gases to 94.5 per cent, because of fundamental changes in the industry and as it ponders investments in the near future of $130 billion. Shell has signalled the closure of its Clyde oil refinery in Sydney with the possible loss of 500 jobs and Ford has announced a downsizing of 240 jobs. To cap it off, Australian Workers Union national secretary Paul Howes has declared he is facing a workers' revolt on the tax and that if one job were to be lost then the union's in-principle support would also be lost.
Howes has been forced into the open by Abbott's dual campaign against Gillard and the tax and against the union leadership for not addressing members' concerns. Since the announcement of the tax Abbott has visited at least 16 workplaces, including a steel works and a cement plant, to campaign against it. At the OneSteel rolling mill at Laverton in Gillard's electorate of Lalor in Melbourne, Abbott observed the growing opposition of workers and drove a wedge between union officials and their members.
"The steel market is highly competitive. They're under a great deal of competitive pressure, particularly from imports, and that's why Julia Gillard's carbon tax is a dagger aimed at the heart of manufacturing in this country . . . it will cost jobs big time," Abbott said. "Most of the workers here are members of the Australian Workers Union and I think if Paul Howes was doing the right thing by his workers he would be talking to the Prime Minister and saying: 'Think again, if we want manufacturing jobs in this country, think again about this bad tax.' "
Don Voelte, chief executive of the biggest Australian-owned LNG company, Woodside Petroleum, argued that while existing projects would not be affected future investment could be directed elsewhere in the world and "carbon leakage" meant China's contribution to global carbon emissions would increase at the cost of Australian LNG exports.
On the face of all this, Combet tried to turn the public discourse back in the government's favour this week by releasing a compensation package for households. It had a guarantee that more than 50 per cent of the revenue raised would be used for permanent compensation to households.
But the package, like all the others, lacked the detail that would enable those fighting for a carbon price to actually have something to use in an argument rather than assurances and moral arguments. As well, the basic concern being felt on the shop floor, worry about keeping your job, wasn't addressed at all by reassurances of compensation for rising costs. When Howes and Voelte agree that workers are worried about the same thing the debate's not favouring the government.
"Green" senator from a distinguished Communist background unrepentant in her hatred of Israel
Her parents were both lifelong members of the Communist Party of Australia and her own views are Trotskyite. Trotsky was the chief murderer of Russia's Red revolution
INCOMING Greens senator Lee Rhiannon says she will support a controversial boycott of Israel right up until she enters Federal Parliament. She will continue to speak out for the sanctions against Israel even though it clashes with the policies of federal Greens leader Bob Brown.
And Ms Rhiannon insisted the stance, part of the Greens' New South Wales platform, is not anti-Israel. She told Sky News the aim was to "bring forward policies that will work for Palestinians because at the moment Palestinians just don't have a lot of the human rights we take for granted".
"I said that yes, we have that position in NSW and I'll support the NSW position. But it's not something we're taking to the Federal Parliament," she said.
Mr Brown suggested Labor should share some of the flak over Marrickville Council's decision to ban Israeli products.
Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd earlier today slammed the boycott as "nuts" but Senator Brown said that it was not just the NSW Greens that had voted for it. "It was four Labor councillors that made that policy possible," he told reporters in Canberra. "Kevin Rudd's Labor party is as every bit responsible for the outcome ... as the Greens were. "So he might address that issue."
The federal coalition has already called on Prime Minister Julia Gillard to distance herself from the Labor councillors who voted for the boycott in December. More than 20 ALP-affiliated unions have also backed banning trade links with Israel.
Ms Rhiannon said the boycott was part of a global movement. She said: "My own position is that its not an anti-Israel position at all. "It is about a boycott to bring forward policies that will work for Palestinians because at the moment Palestinians just don't have a lot of the human rights we take for granted, they cant move easily around their country, there's not equity in jobs and education, they cant be confident their house isn't going to be blown up."
The NSW Greens were strong contenders for the state seat of Marrickville until its candidate, the local mayor Fiona Byrne, was targeted by a media campaign over her inconsistent position on the boycott to isolate Israel.
The move has drawn the ire of politicians, business leaders and the Jewish community.
The Greens controlled council continues to back sanctions, even though its own business papers have revealed it could cost it $4 million. Ms Byrne issued a statement yesterday saying the sanctions would be implemented in such a way as to not financially disadvantage residents and businesses.
New Premier Barry O'Farrell has written to Marrickville mayor Fiona Byrne threatening to sack the council unless it drops the boycott within 28 days. "We're happy to take whatever action is required to get Marrickville Council back focused on the needs of its ratepayers, not trying to engage in foreign affairs," he told Macquarie Radio today.
He advised Ms Byrne to leave the council and run for federal parliament if she wanted to pursue the boycott.
Solar panel boondoggle
It's an object lesson in how not to run government policy. Solar roof panels on domestic houses deliver relatively little greenhouse gas abatement at a very high cost that is borne disproportionately by the poor.
An economy-wide carbon price delivers a lot of abatement at about one-tenth of the cost and can fund compensation to make sure the heaviest cost falls on the people who can afford to pay.
IPART, the pricing regulator, is warning that the former scheme is eroding the willingness of the public to consider the latter.
Yesterday's report reveals NSW homes are already going to be paying about $100 a year more in annual electricity bills to cover the benefits flowing to people who can afford to put solar panels on their roofs. And there's no compensation to pensioners or low-income earners for that.
The concern is that people are now likely to be less willing to pay $140 to $200 a year more on their annual household bills to cover the cost of the carbon tax, even though low and middle income earners will get compensation for that impost.
How did we get into this back-to-front position? Governments didn't think the policy through.
After spending more than $1 billion on direct rebates for solar photovoltaic cells, continued cost blowouts forced the cancellation of the federal scheme in 2009. It was subsumed into the renewable energy target - a policy actually designed to help large-scale renewables attain a viable market share in the lead-in to a full carbon price.
But the small-scale rooftop incentives swamped the market and rendered the big projects unviable, so the government hived them off into their own scheme - requiring electricity generators to buy all the renewable certificates they generated and giving four extra certificates for every certificate actually earned. The retailers warned from the get-go that the new scheme could also blow out.
On top of this incentive, state governments offered households feed-in tariffs to sell the electricity they generated back into the grid.
Both the federal and former NSW government have already tried to wind back their lucrative incentives, but the message from IPART is that they are not doing it fast enough.
The result is the risk that a bad policy cruels the chances of a potentially efficient one.
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