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Friday, 25 May, 2001, 12:41 GMT 13:41 UK
US energy plan: Will it work?
US President George W Bush has unveiled his plan to tackle the country's growing energy crisis.
The new energy "action plan" encourages more oil exploration and greater use of coal and nuclear energy, while offering incentives for conservation and renewable energy sources.
Conservationists have attacked the plan for its reliance on inefficient and polluting energy sources.
It comes at a time when President Bush has already come under strong international criticism for his decision to scrap the Kyoto treaty.
Do you think President Bush's proposals will help to solve America's energy problems? Is there a balance to be found between fossil, nuclear, and renewable energy sources?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
I'm a teacher, and Bush's plan
smacks of what I like to call "rich
kid's disease". To one who has rarely,
if ever, had to suffer the consequences
of his actions, such lack of foresight
is only natural.
The main consumable fuel for cars, heating etc should be hydrogen - absolutely no pollution. Save the oil to use as a raw material for petrochemicals etc. There is no way anyone will persuade the Americans to give up their high energy consumption way of life, so it will have to be substituted with a cleaner fuel.
What I haven't seen anywhere on this discussion is any of our American Bush-supporting friends coming up with a counter-argument. By all means call everyone else in the world a communist riddled by class envy, but at least tell us why CO2 isn't important, or what you're going to do when Florida disappears under water, or when fossil fuels run out. All the Bush apologists seem to think this is an anti-America issue. Wrong. It's an anti-moron, anti-selfishness issue from educated, well travelled people with knowledge of the world at large, who quite like trees, clean water and the coastlines we've got at the moment. Not people who will submerge several dozen south sea islands to help their dad's mate.
To consider an energy source that will remain deadly for 250,000 years, with no known safe means of storage, we must feel we are pretty important. While politicians make decisions based solely upon getting re-elected, the rest of us can look beyond that. We should see that under no circumstances is nuclear energy an option. The long-term costs are just too great.
There will be more technological change in the next 50 years than in all of previous human history - a lasting solution to our energy woes will be one of those myriad changes, long before fossil fuels are exhausted.
Simple measures such as turning off air conditioning, and turning off/down heating when you leave the house makes ALL the difference. I think part of the problem is that the message has not been effectively put across that energy conservation saves you a ton of money, and doesn't need to alter your lifestyle one jot.
While most Americans naively look forward to the 2004 elections as an end to the national nightmare of the Bush regime seizing power in a coup d'etat, they and the world will be in for quite a surprise as the Republican Congress attempts to manipulate the US Constitution to keep Bush in power after 2004. The nightmare will not end in 2004, as Americans will witness the end of democracy in the USA.
Sudeshna Castle, Austin, TX, USA
I really do think that there should be strictly enforced rules, not only in the US but in all countries, that prevent people with large financial stakes in companies from holding political positions. Bush and Cheney offer one of the best reasons why such a position should be adopted. Politicians with investments in oil + gas = energy policies that benefit oil + gas companies. Politics should be as free as possible from such blatant commercial bias.
It'll work just fine for the oil companies and corporate interests in nuclear power, coal, and such other environmentally destructive stuff. If energy costs go too high, we'll rig up our own supply with 12 volt batteries, and if fuel gets too outrageous . . .well, I only live five miles from my job (I moved to get closer to it). I guess I can ride my bike, and just do my grocery shopping with the car. I'd need less than two gallons a week.
Kevin Duggan, USA
I think that it's about time that the developed world worked together to develop hydrogen power plants, based on the same technology that has seen car producers like BMW produce hydrogen fuel cell cars. These use common water that is broken down into its gas elements and the hydrogen used as fuel. This must be the answer to cleaner power, and a cleaner environment.
What Peter Conaghan is proposing is a great way to transform and store electrical energy as chemical energy. Hopefully it will enable hydrogen to become a clean replacement for petroleum. Unfortunately, by the laws of thermo-chemistry, splitting water to form hydrogen and oxygen will require more energy than is produced by reacting hydrogen and oxygen to form water. It is therefore impossible to generate energy via this method.
Shane, Kansas City, USA
The Bush plan will work. Under Clinton there was lots of talk about conservation but gas prices remained low ($1-$1.30/gallon here in California); also, electricity was cheap. At those low price levels there was no incentive to conserve. Now that the gas price has doubled ($2.20 right now and rising), electricity and natural gas have tripled, plus we have profit-hungry oil companies and power companies in the action... this is the best environment for alternative fuel and energy ideas to spread and start to make a profit. Thank you, President Bush!
George W. Bush opines that CO2 is not a pollutant. As governor, he had an unenviable record of Texas being one of the most polluted U.S. states. With its oil, chemical and other atmosphere- and ground- polluting industries, perhaps his adage could have been: "Where there's muck, there's brass." Now, as president, it appears he is promoting this attitude nationwide.
In a sort of "back to the future" flashback, we could once again envisage smog-filled cities such as Los Angeles, oil spills like the Exxon Valdez or even the highly toxic Love Canal in New York. A canary in the White House might be appropriate to monitor the need for gas masks.
Janet Windsor, Minneapolis, Minnesota US
George Bush should remember 'what goes around comes around'. GWB's energy policy only adds to our deteriorating environment. But some states - especially Florida and other low-lying states - will be the worst affected. Ironic really, after the US election fiasco in Florida which put GWB in power.
The purpose of the Bush energy initiative can be summed up in two words - control and profit. The idea of more oil exploration and greater use of coal and nuclear energy, while offering incentives for conservation and renewable energy sources, is as false as teaching petroleum is a "fossil" fuel. In fact as with other patterns in creation, petroleum is the lifeblood of the earth just as sap is the blood of a tree. The present danger is, by an ever-escalating drain of the earth's lifeblood, the vitality of all surface life on the planet is increasingly compromised and destabilised.
The humanitarian scientist and discoverer of AC current, Nikoli Tesla proposed a system whereby all of humanity would have access to free energy. Now THIS would be a true paradigm shift in human progress. These hundred years belong to Tesla.
This being said, as a culture US citizens do need to learn lessons from European development. If we plan carefully now, the United States needn't end up polluted and without resources as Europe is. American oil need not go the way of Ireland's lush green forests or the fresh fish from the Rhine River.
There are a significant number of Americans who have never travelled abroad, who have been reared on the 1950's Cold War ideology that everything is the fault of Communism, and think that everything on this planet exists for their use and abuse! I lived for three years in Texas and until then it had never occurred to me that cities could have virtually no green spaces and be so soulless, depressing, ugly and segregated along racial and class lines! And I blame the car culture for this one, since cities there are built solely to drive through, and not to live in. There are few facilities for pedestrians, cyclists and those that want to use public transport. The fact that so many of these same cities suffer from total lack of quality of life, no sense of community, horrendous pollution and traffic chaos is of no surprise to me. And now the same people who designed these loathsome places want to dig up pristine, beautiful places like Alaska to pay for their short-sightedness and greed. I never envied the people living there, and was only too glad to escape at the first available opportunity.
OPEC and Saddam Hussein must be rubbing their hands with glee at the havoc they will be able to cause. If we have a shut down of oil supply like we did back in the early 70's, the USA would be in deep, deep trouble. Putting all your eggs in one basket will eventually lead to the destruction of the USA's supremacy.
Bush seems to be more interested in the short-term gains. This is in keeping with his other decisions, that speaks volumes for his environmental consciousness. At the level that he is at, and the kind of influence on the world that he wields, his actions can do a lot of damage. He cannot just be dismissed as a more serious version of Dan Quayle. God, you may have to forgive this man too: he is not quite aware of what he is capable of doing.
Accelerating the use of fossil fuels will only bring forward the day when they run out. Surely anyone can see that? It's just a bluff by Bush to please his backers in the oil companies. Nobody can seriously expect the measures to pass Congress and Senate.
It takes a manager politician to say to the industry that within 3 years all cars newly sold should conform to a low pollution standard. Impossible ? No, these cars already exist - cf most of the European cars or the new hybrid cars. Does such a decision damage the economy? I doubt it. The number of miles which we drive will remain the same even with a different car . The oil industry might suffer, but they have sufficient resources to start up alternative energy supplying companies. Thus Bush can still be funded by these companies . But therefore you need not a puppet politician but a manager.
I remember reading articles five years ago saying that California was heading for an energy shortage because no new plants were being built and, at the same time, the population was increasing rapidly. But these warnings were ignored by the populace, who think that electricity just magically appears at their wall outlets, and by politicians who saw no immediate political advantage to dealing with it then, before it became a problem. The radical environmentalists have been overly indulged in this state.
I'm all for alternative sources, but where are they? Solar is still way too expensive for most people. Unfortunately, we have a Governor here in California whose only interest is in getting re-elected by pretending to champion the plight of the energy consumer; but in the process, by making threats against the energy suppliers, he is probably scaring them away from making more capital investment in energy plants. Just what we need, to be scaring away energy suppliers in the middle of an energy shortage.
On the one hand, I support the idea of increased use of nuclear plants. On the other hand, energy consumption at large is multi-faceted problem and therefore requires complex measures. I lived in the US for four years and all this time I've been amazed at severe lack of every-day conservation culture. I was raised in energy-rich country, nevertheless since childhood I knew that the fridge is the only machine to be left on when you leave a house. Another one: don't drive when you can walk. This type of simple rules apply to usage of gas, water, electricity. These rules must be taught to our kids now without waiting till we are forced to.
Having irresponsibly used up much of
the oil in Texas, and polluted much of
the world in the process, just for the
profit of a few US oil companies, Bush
now wants to use up the oil in the rest
of the world as well. The new Russian
states, the Middle East etc. should
hike up the prices to the Bush administration
to preserve their reserves for the future
generations on this earth and save
the quality of the world's environment
from them. We need to force Bush to make energy
from solar and wind power sources.
There is only one more thing to say: they wanted him, now they got him and have to live with him.
It was clear that a mediocre man like Bush would be the puppet of industry and commerce and the tendencies of industry and commerce are always totally capitalist.
No surprises there!
Fasten your seat belts. If there is indeed a point at which the earth's atmosphere will no longer act like a buffer for the greenhouse gases man is pumping into it, we're in for a rough ride. More extreme weather events will surely come charging around the bend at us - the severity of which we may not even have witnessed yet, in our recorded history. Can our urban/suburban infrastructures handle such an onslaught of the elements? With Americans already contributing 25% of the CO2 being thus dumped into the global blanket of air, George W. Bush's plan is to make this number even higher. He very well could be the American President that brings about the end of world civilisation as we presently know it.
Energy problems are not resolved by governments - this is a matter of personal responsibility: we are all free to choose how much energy we consume. To blame Bush for our bad habits is simply wrong.
Europeans always want to gripe about how selfish we Americans are. That is at least in part true. However, I don't think they see the wider picture. I've lived in Oklahoma my entire life. I do drive a fuel efficient car, but I'm probably in the minority. Anywhere I park, nine times out of ten I have to take my chance backing out because I can't see over the top of some Chevy pickup or some Yuppie's SUV. That's a big problem. But beyond that, you just are not supposed to walk places in this state.
Until I visited other countries and other areas of the U.S. where they had decent public transportation, I didn't realize there was any other way to do things. And that's the real trick, this place isn't designed for people to walk in. In other words, its not a problem that can be solved by people getting smaller cars or taking the bus. There isn't a bus, except in a very limited fashion. What we have over here is a very fundamental design issue that goes to the
very core of things. The only way I know to solve it is to spend about a billion dollars on a rail system that could take people easily from OKC to the rest of the state, and around here there is zero political impetus to try something like that.
It seems that people in the main are far from convinced that humans are actually doing anything so wrong.
A few years ago I seem to remember that all the talk of global warming and environmental disaster was being put forward as being so much "hot air". Further, that our impact on the planet was pretty measly compared to natural phenomena.
Surely for people to be really convinced, we need some very hard facts and Mr. Bush knows this as do all the people who support him. So if the U.S. is going to be labelled as the "Big Baddy", please let's have some irrefutable evidence.
The reason this plan is sparking such a global outcry is because it contributes to America's insatiable demand for energy and wasteful ways, which are having a devastating effect on the rest of the world. Your pollution is harming people's health, destroying the environment, and contributing to a future in which several countries could disappear under rising water levels. If this energy plan goes ahead, the low lying countries of the world should bond together and sue the US government for threatening their very existence and for being the planet's biggest super-polluter.
The new Bush energy plan is an anachronism that belongs back in the 1950s. This should come as no surprise to anyone, since the whole administration is bought and paid for by corporate America's oil companies. It will be interesting to see how the mainstream American media will cover this sham.
Nuclear fuel is the answer, take a look at France about 70% of their power is nuclear and their co2 emissions aren't anything like the US.
I think the UK and the rest of Europe should stop blasting the USA at every turn. I have never seen so much anti-Americanism in my life. Bush is doing the right thing, and most of the people here know he is. Most of the rhetoric that I am hearing smacks of class envy, communism, and jealously towards Americans.
I think it's time for the rest of the world to pull together on this one and condemn the US for its very blinkered approach. Let the US citizens pay the same as we do in the UK for petrol, then they'll have something to moan about.
What I can't understand is why such a large country like America thinks that it can keep using as much fossil fuels as it wants, without realising that one day there won't be any more. This should have been addressed decades ago and provisions put in place, but instead it was just ignored. Bad luck, shows you can't have your cake and eat it.
I always find the European slant amusing. The constant blathering about "US energy excess" is silly. The US is the most productive country on the planet, it's huge, and its government doesn't tax the hell out of energy.
The current state of affairs can be blamed on the wacky environmental left. They virtually stopped all new construction of power plants for one reason or another. So, instead of lambasting the new Bush administration, take aim at the pseudo science of Al Gore and Kyoto.
I know the US thinks it is their business only, but nuclear power is all our business. I moved from the North of England after an atom plant in the Ukraine went pop. Imagine how many of those we run the risk of seeing if Cheney builds his 1300 new plants... yikes!
As an American I am ashamed of both Bush and his energy plan.
We in the US have just had 8 years of "saying the right things" but doing nothing other than closing off areas to oil drilling and exploration. At least Bush is setting forth a plan, rather than just putting out platitudes to please a voting block. Some "responsible Democrats" are suggesting that by subsidising the price to consumers and capping the wholesale price of energy, we will solve the problem. Worse even than platitudes, this is the true criminality in politics. Democrats now propose solutions that are not even remotely feasible, but are populist enough- sounding to garner you votes. Aren't these the same Democrats that want more taxes, and a higher price on petrol, in order to discourage use of your car?
Americans need an attitude change towards power usage rather than a policy change towards generating it.
It may work. It will certainly work for the
energy companies and oil companies.
There are other ways to solve the
problem without digging up Alaska and
building so many new nuclear and gas
power stations. The emphasis of the plan
should focus much more on the environment.
As the population grows the requirement
for power grows and supplies dwindle.
Renewable energy needs more research
and that should be done NOW not when it
is the only choice left and vast areas of the country
are left a wasteland.
Rhys Williams, Wales
Talk of Bush 'offering incentives for conservation and renewable energy sources' does not sit comfortably alongside his administration's recent halving of research funding for renewable energy, from around $80m to approx $40m. Even $80m is a tiny amount in the context of the US budget, and money is being wasted on the `son of star wars' missile defence project. I believe the investment, jobs, technology and cost savings created by a push towards efficient energy use would balance much or all of the costs to the US economy of cleaning up its act.
Now you understand why the last presidential election was so hard fought... we knew something like this was coming. Don't assume we aren't aware of how the government is diving headfirst into corporate pockets...but that's nothing new. On the other hand, many Americans don't realise that $2/gal. gasoline is just about the cheapest in the world. Which is probably why gas guzzling SUVs -some of which require 48 gallons to fill- are the hottest vehicles on the US auto market right now. I'm an American and I'm just going to have to say it: Most Americans...are stupid, with no real idea what's going on in the world outside of immediate US concerns. We're selfish, self-centred, and focused entirely on self-gratification.
If the US had put as much into developing renewable energy sources as it has into deliberately sabotaging all attempts to make progress on the environment, it would have been the world leader in renewable energy 30 years ago. For such a supposedly technically advanced country to be so dependent on fossil fuels, supplies of which are scarce and finite, is an absolute disgrace.
David Stockman, Australia
To Robert, USA: Europe stretches from the edges of the northern polar regions to the coast of Africa. We have a wide climate range among our member states. However, if he goes to any of the regions that have these extremes of temperature he would find that buildings are constructed of appropriate materials to mitigate against these extremes. In southern Europe, for example, the stone houses are wonderfully cool even in 40C summer heat. In comparison the wooden houses that they insist on building in the US become ovens before the temperature hits 25C. Energy conservation is not just about using the "AC" less but by using construction methods appropriate to the area in which you live!
When I have visited the States on holiday, I am always horrified at the way in which so much energy is wasted. For example, I was staying at a house in New Jersey. Outside it was over 30 degrees and yet when we wanted to dry our clothes, we found there was no washing line to be seen in the garden and the host's immediate reaction was: put it all in the tumble (which was a mammoth, electricity-guzzling machine). Here in the UK, my mother never thinks of using the tumble drier unless it's pouring outside and mainly because it costs so much to run. Don't Americans realise that there are also economic benefits to conserving energy?
I think it is terrible, that the politicians of this country are more interested in making short term quick fixes to a problem instead of tackling the real issues. My feeling is they do this so their friends in the energy industry can line their pockets with the hard-earned money of the American people.
My respect for George Bush (both Sr and Jr) has plummeted even lower than it was before. It is ridiculous to believe that there will always be another mountain range to cross and find additional fossil fuels. It is time that we find clean renewable sources of energy and practice conservation.
We should not be surprised at this lamentable policy from Dubya Bush. This is the very worst type of old world thinking, and it's a frightening prospect indeed. Conserving energy is not difficult, and doesn't have to drastically reduce the quality of life. How dare Americans complain about the
price of petrol (at 40% of the UK price) when they mostly drive around 4.0 litre V8 tanks on wheels!
Of course Bush's energy plans will work. The only people who can possibly object are the Greens. Greens believe in a bizarre mix of pseudo-science and quasi-religious superstition. Green hegemony in politics and the media has held back human progress over the past three decades. At last, in George W, we have a President prepared to stand up to them.
I am in shock that Americans cannot see what this means for their life in the not too distant future. Why do they all need 3-5 litre cars. Have none of the people in government heard of conservation and more efficient appliances. I am not a Green and agree that for the moment fossil fuels are going to stay, but if we looked at making all our appliances/cars use less then the amount produced now should be enough. I think at the same time more money should go into research for renewable resources, because we all know fossil fuels are going to run out.
Yet another example of 'President' Bush taking decisions that affect the rest of the world on the basis of short term objectives, rather than the 'greater good'. If it wasn't so serious for the rest of the world, I would be inclined to say that America has got what it deserves in Mr Bush.
There is a naive assumption that if renewable energy could provide all the energy we need, it would have entirely replaced fossil fuels by now. The lobbying of oil companies and their refusal to commit to any serious investment in renewables has prevented this from happening. Given how much energy can already be produced from solar and wind, it is perfectly clear that they can provide for our energy needs - even America's! But sensible conservation of energy is also needed.
Martin, California, USA
It's a pity that we do not live a thousand years, just to see what the world will be like then. No coal and no oil. Fusion may work, renewables may work. But what if they cannot satisfy our requirements? In a few generations time we will have scarred and polluted the world in order to get and use fossil fuels and we may still be in the same condition. Too many people, wanting too many resources.
This is not a problem just for America, but for the whole world. How are we supposed to turn to the developing countries of the world and tell them that they should reduce their pollution output, when the richest country in the world will not. America already consumes over a quarter of the world's energy output. This action sets an appalling example to the rest of the world, very much a case of "do as we say, not as we do".
I believe that a balance with our environment can be struck if those in Washington, particularly those from fossil fuel backgrounds occupying positions of political power, can lift their heads above the haze they have created, and are again proposing, to see beyond the short term and into the long term. One would hope that men and women, of supposedly great stature, would have even a modicum of vision greater than themselves.
I live in Los Angeles. I also live in the Dept of Water and Power territory that doesn't have to worry like other parts of the city under So.Cal. Edison where they just had a rate increase of 20 to 70%. As a matter of fact, I started using more energy efficient appliances around the house and saw my last bill drop 40%. I have watched my area in So.Cal. grow, but I guess that the powers that be didn't plan for more power for the masses.
It is interesting that as soon as Bush Jr came in, natural gas and car fuel went sky high even for Americans to understand how various energy industries started making a hugh profit in such a short amount of time just this year. How PG&E could file for bankruptcy after paying millions to their executives. And get away with it. Nobody is investigating anything and we the people have to accept it.
Michael, California, USA
Why doesn't Bush ask Las Vegas to dim some of their lights?
The US has made great strides in recent years to become more "green" so the expanded use of coal and drilling the Alaskan refuges should not be the answer. However, I am sure if Europe had the climate extremes that many of us do in the US, then their energy consumption would be higher. Also, it is a fact that Australia leads the world in the emission of "greenhouse gases" per capita topping the US and Canadian output by 25%.
Richard T. Ketchum, USA
If the same amount of money
that is being invested in oil and coal
exploration, and building nuclear
power plants, was put into renewable
energy sources, the problem would
be solved on a long-term basis, and
we would all breathe easier for it.
The crisis has arisen because of price-fixing agreements - the oil and gas industries have put up their prices and the electricity generators are not allowed to put up theirs to match, meaning they are forced to lose money unless they shut down. Capacity is an irrelevance. It is the US Government itself causing the problem, trying to maintain artificially low prices. They are either going to have to stop subsidising consumers, or watch the electricity industry head for bankruptcy. Not too hard a choice even for Mr Bush.
I thought that the issue in California (or part of it) was that the existing power stations couldn't supply electricity cheaply enough to be competitive. Exploring in Alaska for more oil won't help that situation. Furthermore, building new power stations that don't run on sustainable sources is a very short-term view. Is this how the current US government can consider a 1.3 trillion dollar tax cut? Sounds like a wasted opportunity and doesn't offer encouragement to the countries who really hurt switching to renewable energy sources.
A few years ago there was a big push for solar energy, which no longer has much of a presence here. It seems to me that rather than looking at better, long term alternatives, GWB is trying to fix something quickly and that necessarily isn't the best solution for the planet. It is interesting though that in the eight years of the Clinton/ Gore Administration not much was made of an energy crisis. This is yet another problem that the Democrats made a low priority and we will all end up paying for it.
Matt L, France (ex-pat Brit)
Why isn't the Bush administration encouraging the conservation of energy? Because increased reliance on coal and the extraction of oil from Alaska is good for the Republican Party's big-business fossil-fuel allies. These are evil men who care more for their private network of wealth than for what is good for the common people and the planet.
There are a lot of hysterical doomsday nutters who will be screaming that the end of the world is nigh. Bush's proposals will at least keep the lights burning. I think it just shows his lack of tact that he didn't try to sink more cash into researching/ developing sustainable energies and persuading his countrymen to consume less energy and stop driving those 5.0 litre pick-up trucks to the mall.
So Bush has proposed building loads more fossil fuel burning power stations and wants to open up the Alaskan wildlife sanctuary for drilling to accommodate America's thirst for energy.
Surely money would be better spent in making appliances/ cars etc more energy efficient and educating the American populous in effective energy management (turn lights off when not needed etc). Unfortunately, I get the impression that most of the citizens of the USA see it as a fundamental right to use as much as they feel is necessary and sod the impact on the rest of the planet.
Whilst every other country in the world is looking forwards at advanced renewable energy technologies and phasing out coal and nuclear, America seems to be heading backwards. This does not bode well for the future of the American economy.
This beggars belief.
I know that America has got energy problems at the moment, but what an appalling way to address them.
Never has one Administration been quite so beholden to a set of vested interests than this one. Several key positions are now held by people in the pocketers of the Coal, Oil, Automotive and Nuclear Industries. Wake up America - your Corporations have taken over your government and aren't exactly operating in the public interests are they? Especially over the longer term. When will you realise this, just because a private company is great at making profits doesn't mean that its operations are in your best interests. And no I'm not a ultra green but I do want to be able to look my children in the eye and say that not all of my generation were greedy, short-termists, beholden to Big Business. How many on the American Right could do likewise?
To Gerry from Scotland, I would reply that most Americans (myself included) did think before they voted. The law of the land put the wrong guy in office. When we are presented with Bush's archaic, nepotistic, pocket-lining, not to mention environmentally unfriendly energy strategies, it only serves to make us angrier than we are already. For me, four years can't pass soon enough.
It's a reasonable idea for the short-term future, but Bush should be looking at more longer term solutions, in particular more natural sources such as solar power and wind power
This borders upon criminal irresponsibility and epitomises the think now, forget tomorrow attitude of the present incumbent of the White House. For all of our sakes America, think before you vote next time.
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