Green Energy Unicorns

It is not just sufficient to diagnose a problem and get some noisy activists to think up a solution. It is not even sufficient to get some of the greatest economists to devise the theoretically ideal policy. It is also necessary to drive that policy through to a conclusion. Donna Laframboise provides a catalogue of recent green energy failures. It is far from being an exhaustive list, but it amply illustrates that even if we are facing an imminent climate apocalypse, these green policies are not only useless, they are making us poorer, and thus making the situation worse.

Big Picture News, Informed Analysis

Everywhere it has been tried, green energy is costly, unreliable & financially unsustainable over the long term. Here’s a reading list for those still in doubt.

I’ve recently been writing about the fossil fuel divestment movement which, according to someaccounts, is “sweeping” US college campuses. In the opinion of the idealistic young activists involved in this movement, fossil fuels are passé.

“It’s time for a new age of renewables” they declare. College endowment funds should invest in “renewable energies” instead.

Why do we hold on so firmly to green fantasies? Why won’t we admit that currently available renewable energy sources don’t measure up?

This past March, the chief investment officer for California’s state pension plan called investments in clean technology “a noble way to lose money.” It’s possible, he acknowledged, that some of these investments might turn out to be profitable on a timescale of…

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Three Positive Ways to Counter Climate Denial

Anyone who reads this blog will know that I am deeply sceptical of the whole global warming scare. That stems from trying to compare and contrast the arguments through understanding different positions. One element I found coming to the fore is trying to shut down any criticism by maligning of opponents through untruths, derogatory comments and questioning of motives. A recent example of is Paul Syvrets’ attack on Jo Nova, a Vince Whirlwind’s follow up to my comment.

Suppose for one moment that alarmists of being on the side of science, and hold the fundamental truth about the coming apocalypse unless the human race repents of its evil ways. As climate science is based on public relations, I would suggest that the whole approach of attacking opponents and shutting them out of the media is a PR disaster. Tell somebody they are wrong and smearing them will get their backs up and help persuade others you are not on the side of truth. Now scientific models are too difficult for the lay public to understand, and outputs ambiguous to the uninitiated.

Let me suggest three, very positive, ways of winning over people from the “false prophets of climate denial”.

First is building up a track record in predictions

As I have often read, only true climate scientists can understand the science. But people will understand when through the using the climate models clear, bold predictions are made that later come true. Nobody will expect a 100% hit rate, but a good track record will be sufficient to convert the most waverers.

Let me help out with some examples, which I am sure some climate scientists can complete.

  1. More than twenty years ago the models predicted a continuing upward trend in global surface temperatures if greenhouse gases emissions were not severely curtailed. Emissions have exceeded our worst expectations so…..
  2. In 2000 in both Britain and Germany, it was predicted that children would grow up no knowing what snow was. The decreasing can trend can be found ……
  3. Following the massive heat wave in Europe in 2003, it was predicted that would extreme heat waves would become more frequent. This trend is shown….
  4. Following Hurricane Katrina, it was predicted that would be an upward trend in these severe storms. The evidence can be found……
  5. In 2007 the UNIPCC predicted that climate change could lead to a drop fall in crop yields by up to 50% in some African countries by 2020. The latest evidence to support this prediction consists of…..
  6. One of the most visible signs of warming is the disappearing snows of Kilimanjaro. This continuing trend can be found…..
  7. One of the direst predicted consequences of global warming is accelerating sea level rise. The latest data demonstrating this trend can be found at…
  8. One of the biggest contributors to sea level rise is melting of the polar ice caps. Velicogna and Wahr 2006 predicted that the contribution to sea level rise from Greenland alone would rise from zero to over 1mm per annum between 2002 and 2012. The actual data to support this is to be found……



Second is that the doubters believe that climate scientists practice pseudo-science.

To counter this

  • Show that the methods are in the tradition of the greatest scientists like Newton, Pasteur, Einstein and Feynman. Where different, explain why climate science’s methods are superior, or more appropriate.
  • Define clearly the boundaries of climate science, and the different skills and specialisms within it. People might then start appreciating what how complex and diverse the subject actually is.
  • Demonstrate how climate science learns from the different philosophies of science.
  • Demonstrate how climate science utilizes basic distinctions of philosophy. For instance the differences between open and closed questions, between positive and normative statements and between a priori and empirical statements.
  • Show how, like in the field of medical science, climate science is advancing and over-turning or modifying previously held views through better quality analysis.
  • Climate science needs to draw upon a number of areas. Demonstrating how the science draws upon specialists in statistics, forecasting and other disciplines where it overlaps.
  • Show how proper controls are being implemented and adhered to in order to prevent any conflicts of interest from, for instance, the same people creating temperature sets who are also the trying to vigorously promote their theories.

Third is the support of policy controls

Medical practitioners and pharmaceutical companies fully realise that whilst medication properly diagnosed can deliver huge benefits, it can also generate great harm if there is not a proper diagnosis, or the incorrect medication or dosage of that medication was prescribed. Similarly, there would be great alarm if the armed forces did not have proper control of their weapons, so that rogue elements could seize control of those weapons to start an insurrection.

From a policy point of view, the UNIPCC in the Summary for Policymakers in 2007 that

Peer-reviewed estimates of the social cost of carbon in 2005 average US$12 per tonne of CO2, but the range from 100 estimates is large (-$3 to $95/tCO2).

Given that it would be totally immoral to impose policy whose consequences are more damaging that the issue it is supposed to alleviate, proposals for the proper implementation and control of policy are to be found ……

I welcome any discussion or debate on these issues. If you have more examples, or help with links, please use the comments.

Kevin Marshall

Update 29/05/13 23.56

To encourage debate , left the following comment at

In any realm of life, calling people names, or making claims that they think are false will only get their backs up. Further blocking them from any access to the media will generate the idea they are a victimized minority.
The best public relations present positive images about one’s own ideas. Negative images of opponents always backfire. I have made three suggestions how this might be done.
First, loudly proclaim the predictions of climate change that have come true.
Second, counteract the claims of pseudo-science by demonstrating that climate science not only builds of the greatest scientists and philosophies of science, but enhances them.
Third, disperse the claims about pursuing high-risk policies, by proposing safeguards and audit checks against them being usurped by profiteers and swindlers.

Update 30/05/2013 03.00

Watching the Deniers says:

Nice comment. Thanks for posting it.

I hope this leads to positive discussion, and recognition that there are legitimate positions that can be taken contrary to one’s own. 

Update 30/05/2013 00.19

Have also contacted at with the following.

As you are experts in public relations, you must realize that negative images against opponents will create a group of “victims” who will garner support from the alleged “oppression” by the media. Much better is to present positive image of climate science. I have suggested three ways this could be done at my blog.

Best Regards
Kevin Marshall

Update 02/06/2013 20.40

Posted to the Guardian  here:-

Why all this negativity? Imagine if a similar public relations campaign was launched against those who deny that six million Jews died in the Holocaust? Headline would be

“Deniers of the Holocaust are wrong because they disagree with 99.9% of expert historians.”

It would have just created an underclass of believers in denial, claiming that the “truth” was being suppressed. I know that projections about the future are more difficult to persuade people of than historical facts, but a positive public relations campaign might include:- 
1. Short-term predictive successes. A track record of bold predictions that turn out true is highly persuasive.
2. Showing that climate science is building on traditions of the greatest scientists and philosophies of science.
3. Third is the support of policy controls. Many nay-sayers point to alleged policy failures that enrich businesses at the expense of the poor. Campaigning for independent auditing of policy outcomes would show concern for wider society.

Australian Car Industry – When in a hole stop digging

At Jo Nova’s unthreaded there is a debate going on about Australian car industry. Started up in the post war era, it is currently going through a crisis. In fact, despite large subsidies, it is collapsing. The major messages I want to get across are:-

  • Learn from other countries. Britain in the 1970s for instance.
  • When in a hole, stop digging. If the car industry is failing, throwing money at it might win a few votes, but damage the economy.
  • Australians have the energy, and entrepreneurial skills, in abundance to create new wealth-generating opportunities.
  • Australians (like other countries) are being crippled by the short-sighted hand of Government, who should recognize that do not have the skills, nor the incentives required to create an industrial policy that is of net benefit to the country as a whole.

On making a new start and learning the lessons of Brazil

To successfully start a new car company is virtually impossible in the modern world. In recent decades the successful ones have been in China, but with the help of, and by copying, established marques. Outside of China, there was Proton of Malaysia. There original car was a 1984 Mitsubishi Lancer. That end of the market you do not want to get into – high subsidies and reliant on cheap labour. The last major car company start-up was (I believe) Honda.
Then there are niche markets. McLaren is doing well in the UK, but a midget and building on its F1 base. As the majority of F1 cars are made around Silverstone, it had an advantage of a skilled labour pool and (most importantly) the engineering and design skills.
The alternative is to do what Brazil did. For years it did not allow any imports. There were four foreign car companies building in Brazil (Fiat, Ford, GM and VW). The quality was shocking, models were decades older than Europe and the the companies colluded. VW built a variant of the Ford Escort and the Beetle came off Ford production lines. In 1994, they opened up to imports, but with a 25% import tax. Very quickly 70-80% of the market was imports. So the Brazilians stuck a 70% tax. The response over a decade was for more foreign companies to open assembly plants. Then came Mercosur – the “free-trade” zone covering most of South America. Now there are plants from Renault, Mercedes (mostly the A-class), Audi and Volvo amongst others.
The major problem of taking this route is the restriction of choice. The Mercosur market (including Brazil, Argentina and Mexico) is a number of times bigger than Australia, and last time I looked, had a more limited choice and higher prices than in Europe.
Learn for Australia what the biggest businesses did in the 1980s. Stick to what you are good at. Let the market develop in Australia based on its comparative advantages. That is farming (which you have developed from low margin sheep farming to high margin wine production) and mining. Then there is tourism as well, so long as you don’t let your government tax air travel.
In the longer term there are spin-off industries. In Britain we don’t have much manufacturing, but we have some of the world’s best designers. Oil production is declining, but a disproportionate amount of global off-shore technological expertise is around Aberdeen.
The mistake of most people to associate wealth with making actual things. It is not. Wealth is about creating greater value than the inputs. Assembling everyday, easily reproducible, objects adds very little value, so is confined to the poorest countries. For instance textiles in Bangladesh, or assembly of commodity items in China. The real wealth comes from new ideas, or taking existing processes and doing them more efficiently and/or effectively than anyone else. That is staying ahead of the game.

A readable primer on the economics is Israel Kirzner’s “Competition and Entrepreneurship.”

When in a hole, stop digging. Lessons of the British Experience

Andrew McRae is torn between ending the subsidies and letting the car industry fold.

Hi Andrew,

I can see why you are torn between Government Industrial policy and letting free markets work. I finished high school and went to university during the early Thatcher years and saw both sides. In the 1970s one of the most famous British cars was the MG Midget – a tiny two seater sports car. There were huge protests when production was stopped, with each car costing twice the selling price. Like most of the cars produced in Britain it was unreliable, particularly when compared with the Japanese competition. The country subsidised many industries, spending 5-8% GDP on subsidies. We tried to get into the computers – and failed. The one bright spot was Concord, developed with the French. A phenomenal technological achievement, it cost £4bn (A$40bn+ in todays money) and the few made were virtually given away. It was a case study in how an original government project at low cost with high rewards switches to the opposite. When mooted in the mid-50s, it was to cost £80m with a market for hundreds of planes.

One thing that you must not lose sight of is the existing workers in your car industry. In Britain in the 1970s there were millions employed in manufacturing, whether the car industry, steel, shipbuilding, engineering, or technology assembly lines. Another 250,000 jobs were in coal mining. Many who were made redundant in their 50s never got jobs again. Many others only obtained lower paid unskilled work. There is still incredible bitterness towards the whole Thatcher legacy. But the fault lay not with ending “industrial policy”, with its ever-growing subsidies, but in starting it in the first place. It is the same principle as for the carbon tax. Even assuming the theoretical case was true, the people least qualified to implement the policy are the politicians. Not because they cannot hire the best experts to devise a policy. It is for business and a carbon tax to work you need to make changes, which will hurt people. In manufacturing you need to continually cut jobs and change. With an “optimal” policy to reduce CO2 emissions some jobs need to be destroyed (to get huge benefits) and people suffer hardship. Politicians who are so openly ruthless get voted out pretty quickly, even though they are doing the best for the country. The best long-term interests of the country are the biggest vote losers, if those politicians are advised think short-term and are advised by spin doctors. Yet the interests of a modern developed country are in providing the structures to enable the future wealth-creating opportunities to develop. Australia is probably the pre-eminent example of a country for this to happen, as there are many people with vision, ability and the passion to make things happen, along with the ability to take risks. The crippling disability that they need to overcome is the risk-averse dead-hand of government who cannot see beyond the next set of opinion polls.

Reply to Hengist McStone’s “Climate Truthers and 9/11 Skeptics”

At the Heretics Corner blog of Hengist McStone has a posting “Why can’t we have climate truthers and 911 skeptics?” My comment, which I am about to submit is:-

Your statement that

“running through the heart of climate skepticism is the belief that truth about climate science has been suppressed”

is a new one on me. Major climate sceptic blogs (WUWT, Jo Nova, BishopHill) do not see a hiding of the truth, but that a lot of spurious claims are based on very little evidence and of prophesies that fail to come true. They also point to other ways of looking at the data. They would agree that the public is being misled, but this is about the quality of the science, and ultimately the very definition of what is called “science”.

There is a huge weight of evidence for 911 being an act of al-Qaeda terrorism, with no assistance from the CIA. Similarly there is a huge weight of evidence for millions of Jews being killed in the Holocaust and that the average adult smoking 60 cigarettes a day from age 18 will live a much shorter and unhealthier life than the average adult who never inhales a single lung full.

Analogy with these different strongly-supported propositions can be in three areas. The first is on based on numbers of expert supporters of a proposition. The second is showing that there is similarly very strong evidence. The third is showing that techniques and standards of outside from other areas are utilized.

Use of the first area is attempting to gain credibility by association. The second area would make analogy and name-calling superfluous. The third area is contradicted by claims that only expert climate scientists can divine the real truth.

Perhaps another analogy would help. Suppose that a popular and charismatic celebrity is accused of rape of young children. Despite the overwhelming evidence showing that person’s guilt the accused vehemently denies the charges and many who idolise that person make all sorts of spurious claims about the evidence and the victims. What would be the best course of action?

  1. Dispense with a trial due to the overwhelming evidence, then deny a voice to those who not believing that their idol is guilty, question the evidence. Furthermore, mount a propaganda campaign against “evidence deniers” and “supporters of paedophilia”.
  2. Have a fair trial, even funding the defence, so that people can see the evidence being presented and challenged. If the evidence is overwhelming, the idolizers will be silenced.

I would suggest that the first course of action is taken by those who dogmatic belief in their being right is based upon very little evidence.  Widely applied would undermine people’s faith in the ability of the court system to achieve justice, thereby undermining the rule of law. Widespread practice will result in highly repressive regimes, often with discrimination against sections of the community, in particular anyone who challenges orthodoxy. The second approach might sometimes result in the guilty getting found not guilty on a technicality, or getting found guilty of lesser crimes. But pursuit of the highest standards will win over the doubters and gain support for the rule of law. This is the thinking that led to the development of the trial by jury system in Anglo-Saxon England. If you give people a fair and open trial, then others will trust authority. If you let a ruler or appointed expert divine the truth, then, even when they consistently get decisions right there will be distrust. If they are perceived to get things wrong, or the process is hidden from public view, then distrust will emerge.

In a similar fashion, supporters of climatology are making a massive public relations blunder. Rather than engaging in open debate, and encouraging people to analyse the differing arguments they make false analogies, misrepresent the opponents and discourage people from questioning, or comparing differing points of view. 

Tram to East Didsbury – a net detriment to Society

Today was opened a 2.7 mile tram link. The plush new trams will transport people to the centre of Manchester in 25 minutes. For those who normally take the car, there is a large car park, meaning people do not have to endure up to sixty minutes of heavy traffic congestion and then to face exorbitant city-centre car parking charges. For people normally taking the bus, there is a similar time saving, and a much more pleasant ride. Further the route goes via Chorlton, a route that is only served with public transport by a painfully slow bus at any time of day. People who do not use public transport now will start doing so. People who already use public transport have a much superior option.

So how on earth, with all these positives can I claim that this fantastic new tram is to the net detriment of society?

Within 400 metres of East Didsbury tram station is East Didsbury railway station. To Manchester it takes 12 minutes, half the time of the tram. Off peak by train is around £2.50, as against £3.80 tram cost I was quoted at 8pm when I took the photograph.

The bridge in the background is of the A34 Kingsway. Less than 50 metres away is a stop for the 50 bus into Manchester. 100 metres left of shot is East Didsbury Bus station. In between on Didsbury Road is a bus stop for buses from Stockport going through towards Altrincham, Chorlton and also North through Didsbury, Withington, Rusholme into Manchester. The Withington to Manchester bus corridor is probably the busiest in Europe, mostly due to serving two large University campuses. The tram route is useless to the students.

Then there is the cost. A weekly ticket on the tram to Manchester is £21.00. An annual ticket is £800.00. This compares with £12.50 for a weekly bus ticket. For students, Stagecoach (the dominant bus company) provide an unlimited travel ticket for £60.00 a term, equivalent to £5.00 to £7.50 per week.

But the biggest costs are to society as a whole. In December 10th 2008 there was a referendum in Greater Manchester on a package of measures to improve public transport, paid for by a congestion charge. There was a huge, publicly-funded website called “”. The most expensive item Although the website is now suspended, thanks to the Wayback Machine, the claims can be charted. Most important amongst the claims was

FACT: There’s no Plan B. If we vote NO in December the money goes back to Government, all £3 billion of it.

I wrote on 09/11/08, a full month before the referendum:-

… is a false statement, as the total investment is less than £2.8bn, including £313m for the congestion charge investment. The central government is only providing, £1.5bn of this, £1.2bn is to be funded by the congestion charge and £100m is from other sources. The full £2.8bn includes contingencies, so will only be “achieved” if there is an overspend.

Anyway, the full and permanent withdrawal of the £1.5bn funding may not occur. The Prime Minister, in a response to a question tabled by Manchester Withington MP John Leech, said “If Greater Manchester came back with a revised proposition, we would need to assess it on its merits.”

Just six months later the decision was made to go ahead with the scheme. Maybe you can excuse a Government trying to cajole people into making people decide in the general interest. But they commissioned a detailed study which relied upon a congestion charge to force large sections of the community from private to public transport. That the people who would be forced to switch would be those currently only just able to afford the luxury of private transport, or that the figures ignored empirical economic evidence that undermined their case are beside the point. What is important is that the wider economic validity of the case for an expanded Metrolink to East Didsbury relied upon the “stick” of the congestion charge. Without that “stick”, the costs of the Metrolink extensions are significantly greater than the benefits, so society as a whole is worse off than if the money had never been spent. The Labour Party would have known this if they had read and interpreted the report they commissioned. Yet the spin doctors put Labour Party interest before the interest of the wider society and ploughed on regardless. If a GP had done this in regard to a patient they would have been struck off. If a business director had put personal interest before the interests of the company they would have been disqualified, with all costs falling upon them personally. But when a political party tries to hang onto power by favouring voters in areas where they are strong, or marginals where they are a close second, at the expense of the country at large, then this is not viewed as a moral issue. I beg to differ. Political decisions have wide implications. Our political masters should seek the net betterment of society as a whole. In the case of the Metrolink extensions we have a lovely service that will never justify the original outlay of £1.6 billion, but the long-term passenger revenues may not cover the operating costs, whilst custom taken away from the trains will increase subsidies and/or reduce services in that area along with bus services being diminished that currently run without subsidy.

Suyts on Krugman

Suyts quite rightly criticizes Paul Krugman on the Nobel Laureate’s latest ramblings. However, his analysis misses a couple of issues. This is an extended comment.

You are quite right on two issues here, which I believe have been called the ratchet effect and the debt servicing impact.

The first is that it is easy to increase government expenditure, but much more difficult to scale it back as there are entrenched interests to stop the scale back. It is easy to give people welfare benefits or create jobs. But try to take these away and people will fight like crazy to keep them.

The second on debt servicing you demonstrate very well. As total debt goes up, so does the interest on that debt.

There are other issues that should be taken into consideration on the deficit and debt problem.

The first issue is the size of government. When an economy enters recession, the tax receipts fall and expenditure rises. Corporation tax is the first area to go down, followed by income tax as unemployment rises. In expenditure terms, welfare payments will rise along with (possibly) business bail outs. With small government, taxing little and spending little, this impact was small. With large government – in Britain rising nearly 50% of GDP – this effect is large. A 6% decline in GDP perhaps increased the deficit by 6-7% of GDP. Under the Eisenhower administration, a similar decline would worsen government finances by maybe 2% of GDP. Big government exacerbates the size of cyclical swings.

The second issue is the position at the start of downturn. In mid-2008 both USA and Britain had structural deficits – in the USA to finance the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, in Britain finance a huge increase in public sector pay and capital spending on schools and hospitals. A structural deficit is the measure of the average government deficit over the course of the business cycle. In Britain at the top of the cycle, the actual deficit was around 3% of GDP, with a planned rise to 4%. The structural deficit was probably greater than 4% of GDP in mid-2008 in Britain and maybe slightly smaller in the USA. Below is my estimate of the impact of Britain’s structural deficit in April 2010. I estimated that the structural deficit built up between 2001 and 2008 would in the long-term increase National Debt by 40% of GDP. I was overly optimistic in my assessment.

The third issue is with the classical Keynesian Multiplier. Crude textbook Keynesianism of the 1960s for a closed economy stated

E = C+I+G

Or national expenditure is the sum of Consumption, Investment and Government expenditure.

The theoretical impact of increasing government expenditure on total output, when the economy is at less than full employment, is Y/G. If government expenditure is 10% of national income, then increase G by $1 and Y will increase by $10. If government expenditure is 40% of national income, then increase G by $1 and Y will increase by $2.50. However, crudely put, if the government expenditure does not take up the slack in the economy (the deficit in aggregate demand), then (in an inflation-free economy) the government expenditure “crowds out” private expenditure. Another way of putting the situation, if the economy is not “stuck in a rut” as Keynes assumed in his “General Theory”, but merely reacting to overinvestment (such as a housing bubble), then increased government expenditure will have no effect on total output, but “crowd out” other expenditure. It will also add to the nominal national debt, without adding to total national income, thereby increasing national debt as a percentage of national income, or expanding national income leading to increased tax revenues and thus closing the deficit.

The fourth issue is fiscal tipping points. If the increased government expenditure fails to stimulate the economy, then the result will be a larger structural deficit. If, like some European countries, there is a further contraction then the deficit will increase. In Greece, Spain, Italy and Portugal, this further downturn has led to increased economic risk, pushing up interest rates. This increases short-term debt costs, further increasing the deficit. The only way to stem total collapse is to massively cut public expenditure and increase taxes to not only pay for the debt-financing costs but to rapidly cut the deficit as well. In climate change there has been much spurious talk about possible tipping points in the remote future if certain things come true. But in OECD economies, with some already having gone beyond the fiscal tipping points, many (including Krugman) seem oblivious to the possibility. Should we not use a smidgeon of the precautionary principle in economics , proclaiming austerity as an insurance against severe depression.?

Kevin Marshall

Help Launch Climate Skeptic Film Project: 50 to 1

This looks a very interesting project that mirrors my own thoughts. Take the UNIPCC “projections” of a future catastrophe – including all the nonsense about falling crop yields in Africa, collapsing polar ice caps, etc. – and you still have not got anything like the justification for policy.
If you then add the additional costs of ineffectual implementation, poor policy-making and other “policy” that economists would not recommend (e.g. bio-fuels) then the 50 to 1 ratio balloons. If the “science” turns out to be too extreme. If for instance a doubling of CO2 leads to just 1.5 degrees of temperature rise instead of 3 degrees, then the catastrophic consequences will not just halve, but be many times smaller. If the catastrophic consequences of a given amount of warming have been overstated, (such as storms not becoming more extreme, but less – as Hansen and Lindzen now agree) then it becomes worse still. If it turns out that a small amount of warming of net benefit to the planet (as it will be in Northern Europe) and/or that higher CO2 levels are of net benefit to the planet, then the whole exercise turns from incurring costs to prevent the future consequences of another lot of costs to incurring costs to prevent a benefit from happening.

Watts Up With That?

This will be a top post for a day or two, new posts appear below. For those waiting…PAYPAL is now available

I’m participating in this, as are some other well known climate skeptics. The producer (Australia’s video pundit Topher Field) has 4 weeks (28 days) to get it funded in IndieGoGo. I ask your help to make it happen. Note, I have no financial interest in this film, I’m merely one of the people to be interviewed. Thanks – Anthony 

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