American Elephants

Renewable Energy, Correctly Understood by The Elephant's Child

From the Manhattan Institute:

If You Want ‘Renewable Energy,’ Get Ready to Dig

Democrats dream of powering society entirely with wind and solar farms combined with massive batteries. Realizing this dream would require the biggest expansion in mining the world has seen and would produce huge quantities of waste.

“Renewable energy” is a misnomer. Wind and solar machines and batteries are built from nonrenewable materials. And they wear out. Old equipment must be decommissioned, generating millions of tons of waste. The International Renewable Energy Agency calculates that solar goals for 2050 consistent with the Paris Accords will result in old-panel disposal constituting more than double the tonnage of all today’s global plastic waste. Consider some other sobering numbers: …

When electricity comes from wind or solar machines, every unit of energy produced, or mile traveled, requires far more materials and land than fossil fuels. That physical reality is literally visible: A wind or solar farm stretching to the horizon can be replaced by a handful of gas-fired turbines, each no bigger than a tractor-trailer.

Building one wind turbine requires 900 tons of steel, 2,500 tons of concrete and 45 tons of non recyclable plastic. Solar power requires even more cement, steel and glass—not to mention other metals. Global silver and indium mining will jump 250% and 1,200% respectively over the next couple of decades to provide the materials necessary to build the number of solar panels, the International Energy Agency forecasts. World demand for rare-earth elements—which aren’t rare but are rarely mined in America—will rise 300% to 1,000% by 2050 to meet the Paris green goals. If electric vehicles replace conventional cars, demand for cobalt and lithium, will rise more than 20-fold. That doesn’t count batteries to back up wind and solar grids.

Do read the whole thing.

For Arizona, A Splendid Lawsuit Against Tom Steyer by The Elephant's Child

The Arizona Attorney General, Mark Brnovich has filed a lawsuit against Tom Steyer and a renewable energy campaign Steyer supports for launching, what Brnovich claims is a defamatory campaign against him.

Filed on Wednesday, the lawsuit names Steyer and Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona as defendants. Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona — which has benefited from millions of dollars in donations from Steyer — is campaigning to require Arizona electric utility companies derive half their power from renewable energy sources by 2030. The ballot proposal is officially known as Proposition 127.

Brnovich’s lawsuit is in response to Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona’s campaign against him. The renewable energy group has aired attack ads against him, claiming he “bailed out” the state’s largest electric utility company by wording the Proposition 127 ballot language in a way, it argues, puts the proposal in a bad light.

Originally written by the Arizona Secretary of State’s office, Brnovich added language to the ballot measure that said utility companies would have to meet the renewable energy mandate “irrespective of cost” if the proposal passes.

The attorney general argues that his office has acted to word ballot language in a way that is most informatie to voters. Brnovich has maintained that the changes are “factually accurate.”

We always want to err on the side of giving voters as much information as possible, especially consumers, he told the Arizona Republic. “When you add a provision to the constitution that starts mandating that 50 percent of that energy has to come from different sources and non-nuclear sources, that will have an impact on the cost.”

Brnovich’s lawsuit is in response to the Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona’s campaign against him. The renewable energy group has aired attack ads against him, claiming that he “bailed out” the state’s largest electric utility compny by wording the Proposition 127 ballot measure language in a way that puts their proposal in a bad light. CEHA has aired attack ads calling Brnovich, who is running for reelection, “corrupt” and called openly for Arizona voters to boot him from office. This has happened in the wake of the renewable energy proposal lagging in the polls.

The battle over Proposition 127 has become the costliest ballot measure campaign in Arizona history with each side spending about $40 million. Arizona Public Service, the state’s largest electric utility is against the proposal and has funded the effort to defeat it.

Billionaire Tom Steyer has spent millions to push his favored renewable energy mandates. He seems to be a “true believer” in the horrors of global warming and has led similar campaigns in Michigan, Nevada and other states. “Renewable” energy, with the exception of nuclear energy and water power dams, remains mostly hogwash.

The wind does not blow steadily, but in puffs and wafts or else gales that are too much for a turbine. Solar energy is too diffuse. There are clouds and rain. Wind turbines kill birds at a disturbing rate, and solar arrays fry them. I don’t know if anyone has studied the effect on the local ecosystem when you are killing off all the birds. Neither wind nor solar can produce the energy required by a normal economy, which requires a steady source of energy that can be depended on.

I wish Mr. Brnovich the best of luck with his lawsuit.

Green Energy is a Complete Flop, as the World Is Beginning to Realize by The Elephant's Child

National Climate Change Certification Scheme
We are mostly so engrossed in the political battles, that we have little time to pay attention to the rest of the world.  Or perhaps it’s just the media that is so engrossed, for they certainly are.

But a bunch of Democrat Attorneys General gather to attempt to garner mega bucks from Exxon Mobil because they are not interested in investigating the science, but in silencing dissent.

This is a very big deal, right out of Stalinist Russia. You dare to disagree with the “truth” handed down from the federal government and you must pay immense fines and/or be sent to the gulag. Glen Reynolds (Instapundit) said that conspiring to prohibit free speech is a crime in itself. Their idea is that they can sue Exxon Mobil under the RICO laws, which were devised for organized crime, as states attorney’s once did with tobacco. The cigarette companies knew that their product caused cancer, and tried to hide that knowledge, so there were immense damages.

Exxon Mobil, the AGs claim, is committing fraud in the interest of maximizing their profits by deceiving the public about the impact of man-made carbon dioxide emissions.

The fascinating thing is that these climate zealots have never read any of the science involved—they are just true believers. And every once in a while one of the true believers readily admits what it is all about—which is a brave new world where the world’s wealth will be redistributed by  climate policy.

Turns out that “the offices of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and those of other politically aligned AGs secretly teamed up with anti-fossil fuel activists to launch those investigations against those whose political speech challenged the global warming policy agenda.”

Beyond that, the drop in the price of energy is changing things all over the world.

— Hundreds of wind turbines in the Netherlands are operating at a loss and are in danger of being demolished. The main cause is the very low energy prices, which mean that the maintaining the turbines costs more than what the generated energy brings in, the Financieele Dagblad reports based on its own research. Subsidies for generating wind energy are in many cases no longer cost-effective. Smaller, older windmills in particular are running at a loss, but even newer mills are struggling to be profitable with insufficient subsidies. –Janene Pieters, NL Times, 15 April 2016

—Lights Go Out On Solar Power After British Government Cuts Subsidies The Guardian, 8 April 2016 (everywhere, when subsidies are cut, the green fraud dies)

—Polish Government plans to kill Wind Industry. Financial Times, 18 April 2016 (subscription)

—German Government Bill Threatens Renewable Energy Revolution, Green Lobby Warns
Solar Server News, 18 April 2016

—Norway to End Renewable Subsidy Scheme by 2021
Reuters, 15 April 2016

—Europe’s Energy Crisis Poses Warning for the U.S. Countries including Germany, Spain and England are finding that their recent “green energy” experiments are proving too costly to continue.
Breitbart, 14 April 2016

—Teslas May be making Hong Kong’s Pollution and CO2 Emissions Worse. The electric power for charging electric Tesla motors comes from coal generated power plants.
Bloomberg, 14 April 2016

The petrostates assembling in Doha to discuss a potential output freeze two days from now aren’t coming together in a show of solidarity or out of some sense of duty towards one another, but rather as an act of desperation. The American Interest, 16 April 2016

Cheap fossil fuels make the kinds of subsidies necessary to prop up renewables like solar a lot less politically justifiable. Buy into the solar hype at your own risk. SunEdison is one of the biggest players in the U.S. solar industry and was for a time the fastest growing renewables firm in America….today the company stares down more than $12 billion in debt and the looming threat of bankruptcy. The American Interest, 14 April 2016

Indian lenders are becoming increasingly reluctant to finance solar-power projects by foreign companies as bankruptcy looms for SunEdison Inc. in the U.S. live mint
21 April 2016 / E-Paper

There’s lots more. Britain is bringing in shale gas in a gusher, and Scotland looks to have success with shale. Huge fortunes have been made with governments’ subsidies for renewable energy, but if the subsidies are not forthcoming—wind and solar cannot stand on their own. The problems are in the nature of wind and solar energy. Wind is too intermittent, and there is no technology that can change the nature of the wind itself. The same goes for solar energy, but there the problem is night—when the sun sinks beneath the horizon and clouds.

Tesla has quietly discontinued its 10 kilowatt-hour home battery wall. The economics for backup power alone just aren’t that attractive.

The Illusions of Green Energy by The Elephant's Child best places for wind turbines have already been used. To supply the United States with energy from wind power would take a wind farm the size of Texas with densely sited turbines, but there’s not windy places for the turbines everywhere. A turbine requires wind blowing at a certain speed to produce power. If it blows too hard, the turbines have to shut down for they could be damaged. If it blows too gently, they do not produce energy at all , the backup power station which has been running all the time has to take over the production of energy.

I frequently say that the great fault of wind power is that wind is too intermittent. It just doesn’t blow at a steady strength at all, but you have been out in the wind, and you know that.
part-1-fig-11-1024x6611 Here is a graph of electricity production as a percent of wind capacity. I think this one is from Bonneville Power, but I just saved the graph, not the source. Assume that the correct speed for producing electricity from these turbines is at the 50% mark. The power plant operating on natural gas is chugging away, and whenever the wind drops below 50% the gas takes over. So to however much the energy produced by the turbines costs, you have to add in the cost of the natural gas fired power plant.

The Obama administration is eager to shut down any coal-fired power plants to eliminate the CO2 that might go into the atmosphere to fertilize the plants of the earth and enhance our food supply, might add to the tiny bit of CO2 in the atmosphere and cause the earth to warm uncontrollably, although the amount is almost too small to be measured, and there has been no warming at all for eighteen years and eight months. Here’s a bit of reality.


Up until very recently our coal-fired power plants were producing over 40 percent of our electricity. Obama, persuaded that an increase of CO2 in the atmosphere would cause the oceans to rise and the earth to boil,  set about shutting down coal-fired power plants, which will accomplish nothing at all except to put more hundreds of workers out of a job. Oddly enough, as the big coal companies neared bankruptcy, thanks to Mr. Obama, George Soros popped up to buy a controlling interest in the big coal companies. You can figure out what that means on your own.

It Sounded Like a Big Deal, But It is Only a Teeny One. by The Elephant's Child
June 24, 2015, 4:59 pm
Filed under: Economy, Energy, United Kingdom | Tags: , ,

In Britain, Energy Secretary Amber Rudd has announced that large swathes of the British countryside are to be spared the blight of windfarms as taxpayer subsidies are ended. She said that about 2,500 proposed turbines in 250 projects are now “unlikely to be built.” Pay attention to that word “proposed.” They are not tearing down existing windfarms, at least not yet.

The owners of some windfarms have been paid more than £3 million each to shut down their turbines when the National Grid is overloaded. Most windfarms are in Scotland, and “bottlenecks” of energy can build during high winds. Offshore windfarms are not affected as yet. This is unrelated to the ending of subsidies for future farms.

Origin Energy wants to cut down a corner of Barnsdale Forest to make way for two 400ft wind turbines which would tower over the remaining trees. The forest, which was featured in Russell Crowe’s 2010 movie ‘Robin Hood,’ is established as the haunt of the Merry Men in folklore, but local historians are researching Tudor history to determine if there is truth to the story — to prevent the turbines from being built.The locals are set against the windfarm.

Ms Rudd, who has also announced plans to give local communities the final say over windfarms, said: “We are reaching the limits of what is affordable, and what the public is prepared to accept.”

But critics said taxpayers still face a soaring bill for subsidies to costly offshore windfarms .

Without taxpayer subsidies, windfarms get scrapped. They are not a successful business proposition. Britain got all excited about moving to “renewable” energy, but as they blight the landscape and nearby people suffer from the noise, and their taxes go up, enthusiasm wanes. When you get around to shutting them down, be sure to add taking them down and disposing of the dead turbines part of the deal.

I did see ‘Robin Hood’ and cherish the memory. Russell Crowe was Russell Crowe, the story improbable, but it was the ending that was wonderful. It was the Norman Invasion, 1066, and according to Hollywood, the Normans invaded England with Medieval Higgins boats apparently mostly made of driftwood. They were rowed up to the British beach and the front ramp fell, but all were defeated by the Merry Men and the Battle of Hastings never took place? Or perhaps the beach landings were the Battle of Hastings. It was hilarious!

What Kills the Most Birds? Oil Spills or Green Ideology? by The Elephant's Child
June 19, 2015, 6:28 am
Filed under: Energy, Environment, Global Warming | Tags: , , ,


Whenever there is an oil spill on the water, American media are filled with photos and videos of oil soaked birds. The coverage prompts the self-appointed environmental defenders of wildlife to erupt in righteous fury, wringing their hands and blaming the greedy oil companies and blaming careless people of the West for demanding more and more energy so they can fuel their enormous RVs and yachts in crimes against nature.

Fossil fuels are evil, and the alternative is “clean” renewable energy sources like wind and solar energy. Wind and solar energy are natural and sustainable. And solar energy produces less than 1% of our electricity needs, requires 24 hour 7days a week backup from a conventional power plant. If the subsidies vanished, so would solar energy. But the birds, those beautiful birds, dying from filthy fossil fuels!

In the most recent U.S. oil spill off the coast of California, 161 birds died, as of the latest count. Truly sad.

Estimates for bird deaths by wind turbine run from 100,000 a year (The National Research Council), to 300,000 (American Bird Conservancy). Bloomberg News put the toll at 573,000 birds in 2012. That’s for wind turbines. The estimate for  birds roasted by the Ivanpah solar-thermal plant in the Mojave Desert are — one every two minutes — or roughly 28,000 birds killed in a year. Ivanpah focuses the heat from 170,000 mirrors on three 450-foot tall towers generating heat up to 800°. The songbird numbers are hard to estimate for they simply go up in a puff of smoke. The government chooses to look the other way, and ignore laws about raptor deaths because global warming. They gave their lives in a noble cause — renewable energy.

To be fair, the 2010 BP oil spill did substantial damage to wildlife in the region. The Fish and Wildlife Service reported 2,202 “visibly oiled” dead birds were collected within the Deepwater Horizon/ BP incident impact area. Big oil spills, however, are fairly rare, and birds chopped by turbines or roasted by solar mirrors are continuous.

The article in Investors claimed the biggest cause of bird deaths was cats. They said “one study claims that cats are responsible for killing about 2.4 billion birds a year.” I’m suspicious of that statistic. I’ve always had cats (and dogs, bunnies and horses) and I can’t remember but one time I found a bird carcase around the house. One cat was death on garden snakes, and had a bad habit of bringing them into the house and turning them loose. She loosed one on the stairs and I nearly broke a leg when I almost stepped on it.

World’s Largest Solar Plant Wants Federal Grant to Pay Off Federal Loan. by The Elephant's Child


It all seemed so wonderful. The earth would be illumined by the natural power of the sun and the wind. No more smelly fossil fuels polluting the air, just warm, natural sunlight and gentle breezes. Lovely, lovely pipe dreams.

Ivanpah is the largest solar thermal plant in the world. It went live commercially in February, 2014. It is a five square mile layout of nearly 350,000 computer-controlled mirrors, each about the size of a garage door. They reflect sunlight to boilers at the top of 450 foot-tall central towers, taller than the Statue of Liberty. The boilers generate steam which drives turbines to produce electricity.

The mirrors follow the trajectory of the sun. The mirrors incinerate birds in puffs of smoke — they call them “streamers.” The plant is located near the California-Nevada border, about 45 miles southwest of Las Vegas. It’s a $2.2 billion complex of three generating units, which together are capable of producing nearly 400 megawatts — enough to power 140,000 homes. Major hazard to airplanes.

The complex is owned by NRG Energy, Google and BrightSource Energy. Google said in 2011 that it would invest $168 million in the project while BrightSource contributed $1.6 billion in loans guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Energy. This is a big deal for solar, as it presently accounts for less than 1 percent of the nations power needs.

The Ivanpah solar electric generating plant is owned by Google and renewable energy giant NRG, which are responsible for paying off their federal loan. If approved by the U.S. Treasury, the two corporations will not use their own money, but taxpayer cash to pay off 30 percent of the cost of their plant, but taxpayers will receive none of the millions in revenues the plant will generate over the next 30 years.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration data say the cost of generating a megawatt-hour of power in a traditional coal plant is around $100.  For solar-thermal power, the cost goes up to around $261 for generating a megawatt-hour of power. And this makes sense because?

The Mojave Desert plant was built with the aid of a $1.6 billion federal loan guarantee. For the eight-month period from January through August, its three units generated 254,263 megawatt-hours of electricity according to U.S. Energy Information Administration data. That is roughly one-quarter of the annual one million-plus megawatt-hours promised. 

Output picked up in the sunny months of May, June, July and August, but even the higher production rate  would translate to annual electricity output at least 40 percent below target.

Another sign of the plant’s early operating woes: In March, the owners sought permission to use 60 percent more natural gas in auxiliary boilers than was allowed under the plant’s certification, a request that was approved in August.

Note: The plant requires backup from natural gas. (The sun drops beneath the horizon at night). Growing pains? There’s a realization that the plant needs to boost its natural gas consumption. The sun didn’t shine enough.

The fuel is used with auxiliary boilers that prime the system in the early morning, allowing the plant to begin generating electricity as soon as possible after sunrise; to maintain performance during intermittent cloud cover; and to eke out more energy as the sun fades at the end of the day.

California power companies, mandated by the State of California, are required to provide 30% of their power from “renewable” resources.  Since Ivanpah isn’t producing enough electricity to meet payments on its loan, Google and NRG are quietly asking the Department of Energy for a $540 million federal grant to pay down their $1.6 billion loan, and to ge an extension on loan payments until the ARRA tax credits arrive.

Google and NRG want the taxpayers to pony up for another $540 million grant — because the sun isn’t shining as much as they thought it would.

A Perfect Storm of Regulations Descends on Craig, Colorado. by The Elephant's Child

The small town of Craig, Colorado is economically dependent on the local coal mines and the coal-fired power station. The 1,211 megawatt Craig Station is a supplier of relatively low-cost, reliable electricity. Approximately 300 people work at the plant. In 2002, the Tri-State Association embarked on a $121 million, multi-year environmental upgrade to address concerns about opacity and the mitigation of particulate matter. The upgrades were prompted by a settlement agreement reached between the Sierra Club and the five owner utilities of the Yampa Project. The plants were built between 1974 and 1984 at a cost of $1.2 billion, and receive their coal supply from two local mines, one located one mile from the plant and the other 30 miles Southwest.

The Sierra Club declared war on coal, one of our vast resources of reliable,cheap and abundant energy. According to Chris Horner, writing in 2010, the Sierra Club had budgeted $18 million at that point, and hired 100 people to promote a worldwide anti-coal campaign.

Environmentalists are members of a sect.  Once they were obsessed by population growth; now they are driven to restrict access to energy because abundant energy fuels all the industrial activities they despise. … Environmentalists are mobilizing hundreds of anti-coal groups worldwide that are pounding out the false message that coal is dirty, dangerous and unaffordable.

When environmental groups failed to obtain U.S. ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, lo and behold along came a little known outfit called the Center for Climate Strategies (CCS) claiming to be an independent, objective advisory group that helps state policymakers get a  handle on the issue of global warming and guide their exploration of policy options. They were funded by liberal foundations and were in fact an advocate for more state regulation. They said that the states were “laboratories” for climate mitigation policymaking and that states were compelled to act only because of Washington inaction.

You can sympathize a little. State governments didn’t know anything about climate change, they heard it was a big problem and they certainly didn’t want to be the ones blamed for an approaching disaster. And here was this nice group offering to run meetings and provide policy options, and get you in touch with all the other governors who were doing good things for the climate.

You would get to brag about your state’s reliance on clean green energy. Nobody paid much attention to the fact that the Earth had quit warming, or that solar energy only worked when the sun was shining and there weren’t a lot of clouds, and night, of course.  Wind energy was free and clean, and nobody really pointed out that the wind blew only very intermittently and you needed one of those dirty coal plants ready to fill in every time the wind stopped blowing.

You can probably anticipate what has happened. Colorado imposed a renewable energy mandate that stipulates that 30 percent of energy production must come from wind, solar and other renewable sources by 2020. The eligible resources are solar, wind, geothermal, biomass or hydroelectricity. Everybody says there really aren’t any places for big hydro projects where there aren’t dams, and Big Green doesn’t like dams. Biomass doesn’t work, all the plants have gone bankrupt.  And wind and solar just aren’t going to supply any 30 percent of anything.

“Society cannot have reliable power based on when the wind blows and/or when the sun shines,” said Rick Hohnson, plant manager at Craig Station. The Cimarron Solar Facility in New Mexico, for example, has a capacity to produce 30 megawatts. The Kit Carson Windpower Project in Colorado has a capacity of 51 megawatts. Capacity is what the project would produce if the wind was blowing at the right speed all the time; or, in the case of solar, if the sun was shining brightly all the time. Neither plant was operating at capacity when the video was made.

In Craig, the power station and its employees support all the other businesses in town, and, for example, revenue at the Best Western Hotel is forcing the owners to lay off workers for the first time.

“Really what’s happening in Colorado is this perfect storm of federal regulations hammering down on the energy industry and state regulations that are having a tremendous impact on the cost of electricity,” said Tom Pyle, president of the Institute for Energy Research. “This is happening in places all around the country where we see this attack on the very energy sources that have powered our economy and made this engine run.”

It doesn’t matter to environmental extremists that coal today is burned more cleanly that ever before.  The environmentalists find the mere act of taking it from the ground offensive to their sensibilities.  They claim that clean coal requires carbon dioxide-free combustion, a practical absurdity since coal is a carbon-based energy source — but then carbon dioxide is not the source of global warming anyway — it’s that harmless, colorless, odorless gas that we exhale every time we breathe.  And those fumes that you see coming from the smokestacks of coal-fired power plants — water vapor. But never mind reality.  The war on coal rumbles on, and what state regulation doesn’t destroy, Obama’s EPA will. Remember, Obama told us he was going to bankrupt coal.

Green Energy Needs Government Mandates to Reach Its Job Creation Potential. Oh. by The Elephant's Child
November 30, 2010, 5:08 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Energy, Environment, Junk Science | Tags: , ,

A recent article in the Washington Post featured a former surveyor who has been unemployed since 2008.  His job vanished with the collapse of Florida’s once hot housing market.  Unable to find a new job, he signed up for green jobs training earlier this year at his local community college.  Yet his new skills have not resulted in a single job offer, and officials at the jobs training program say the same is true for three-quarters of their first 100 graduates.

With the unemployment rate continuing to hover just under 10%, policymakers are desperate to stoke job creation, and have bet heavily on green energy.  The Obama administration has directed more than $90 billion from stimulus funds into clean energy technology, confident that the investment would be the economy’s next big thing.  But the huge federal investment has encountered the very stubborn reality that there is not yet much market for renewable energy or workers in renewable energy.

Administration officials and green energy executives say that the business needs not just government incentives, “but also rules and regulations that force people and business to turn to expensive renewable energy:”

Without government mandates dictating how much renewable energy utilities must use to generate electricity, or placing a price on the polluting carbon emitted by fossil fuels, they say , green energy cannot begin to reach its job creation potential. (emphasis added)

Everybody seems to love “green jobs” but it’s a vague, poorly thought out love.  Everyone wants to genuflect to the supposed need to decarbonize America’s economy, though they’re not sure what decarbonizing is, nor why it is necessary.  It isn’t.  Carbon dioxide (CO2) is only a trace gas in the atmosphere, and is not a pollutant.  How can what you breathe out with every breath possibly be a pollutant? The panic over 1° of warming over a century, which is probably still just natural warming from the Little Ice Age is delusional.  There may be no warming whatsoever.  Temperature records are contaminated or poorly calculated, and the idea of an “average global temperature” may be a faulty concept.  And if it takes more jobs to produce “green energy,” that is a net cost to the economy, not a benefit.

One report by the RAND Corporation and the University of Tennessee found that if 25% of all American energy were produced from renewable sources by 2025. we would generate at least 5 million new green jobs. (too many ifs)

So “green jobs” are being redefined to include practically anything, from driving a bus to accounting.  Much of the components for wind and solar energy are creating lots of jobs, but in China.  And as with renewable fuels, things supposed to be ever-so-green turn out to pollute even more than ordinary gasoline.  The jobs, in renewable energy as elsewhere, can depend only so long on government handouts.  At some point they have to engage with the free market, have something to sell that someone wants to buy, and turn a profit.  That is not happening.  And the reasons for that have nothing to do with the environment at all.

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