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Tue Aug 13, 2013, 07:41 AM

 

Energy Unicorns and Delusional Greenwashing of Industrial Civilization

Energy Unicorns and Delusional Greenwashing of Industrial Civilization

Through my experience on this website I’ve learned that the pro-fossil fuel/climate change skeptics share something in common with the pro-renewable energy/climate change realists. Neither wants industrial civilization to fade away. This is the fatal flaw shared by both – that industrial civilization with all its toxic trappings of materialism, instant gratification, and objectification of nature can continue with perhaps a few tweaks and modifications here and there. Nothing that the capitalist free market cannot correct, right? Others even fantasize with the idea that there will be some sort of a post-crisis prosperity. So-called “renewable energies” fit nicely into the greenwashing of capitalist industrial civilization. Ignoring the fact that abrupt climate change is well under way with multiple extinction-causing feedback loops having already been set into motion, the right course of action would have been a rapid downsizing and simplification of our mode of living:



The second law of thermodynamics states that energy flows or dissipates from concentrated forms to diffuse forms. Fossil fuels are very concentrated forms of energy, but renewables like wind and solar are very diffuse and intermittent energies. According to leading energy experts like Professor Charles Hall, the EROEI of renewable energy continues to be too low when compared with fossil fuels. Thus in the free market system, the lowest-priced energy (with environmental costs externalized) will always win out and be utilized.



- Plant Lifetime: 20 years is estimated for wind (Sharman, 2012) and 35 years for photovoltaic. To quote Kevin Moore, “Gaia pulverises everything in the long-term, and converts it all into sediment (except certain partially degraded plastics, which seem destined to drift in the oceans for eternity).” Another factor perhaps not discussed much is the effect climate change will have on the variability and volatility of weather patterns where solar, wind, and other renewable energy projects are constructed. Wind, cloud, and rain patterns will be altered, rendering energy plants ill-suited to their originally targeted sites. The world’s energy infrastructure will be increasingly vulnerable to the ravages of climate chaos with more intense flooding, droughts, and shifting weather patterns. Hydroelectric power, solar farms, nuclear plants, and biofuel plantations are dependant on water to run and cool the turbines, clean the solar panels and mirrors, mine the uranium as well as cool the reactor core and spent fuel rods, and grow the biomass. Hotter temperatures will tax the electric grid because of increased electricity demand for cooling in the summer, reduction in the performance and capacity of transformers and above-ground transmission lines, and infrastructure damage from wildfires. Sea level rise will also wreak havoc with coastal erosion, storm surges and flooding.

Our current energy sources (especially fossil fuels and nuclear) are killing us. Combined with the human activity they enable, they have also deeply damaged the rest of the biosphere. Renewables have far too many shortcomings relative to the use we make of our existing energy to be a realistic substitute, especially given the accelerating drumbeat of climate change. It's time to start thinking the unthinkable: we're not going to get out of this situation in any way, shape or form that's recognizable to the privileged classes (that's us, BTW) - though it may be all too familiar to the bottom 10% of the world's population. It may be time to imagine how humanity is going to wind up its affairs over the next 30 years.

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Reply Energy Unicorns and Delusional Greenwashing of Industrial Civilization (Original post)
GliderGuider Aug 2013 OP
wtmusic Aug 2013 #1
kristopher Aug 2013 #3
FBaggins Aug 2013 #13
kristopher Aug 2013 #2
GliderGuider Aug 2013 #5
kristopher Aug 2013 #8
GliderGuider Aug 2013 #9
GliderGuider Aug 2013 #4
wtmusic Aug 2013 #6
CRH Aug 2013 #7
GliderGuider Aug 2013 #10
CRH Aug 2013 #11
GliderGuider Aug 2013 #12
CRH Aug 2013 #14
GliderGuider Aug 2013 #15
CRH Aug 2013 #16
GliderGuider Aug 2013 #17
cprise Aug 2013 #18
GliderGuider Aug 2013 #19
CRH Aug 2013 #20
GliderGuider Aug 2013 #24
CRH Aug 2013 #25
joshcryer Aug 2013 #21
GliderGuider Aug 2013 #22
joshcryer Aug 2013 #23
4dsc Aug 2013 #26

Response to GliderGuider (Original post)

Tue Aug 13, 2013, 10:10 AM

1. Please explain how nuclear energy is killing us.

This should be good.

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Response to wtmusic (Reply #1)

Tue Aug 13, 2013, 10:18 AM

3. Allow me...

In the context of GG's argument nuclear power is a driver of escalating energy consumption.

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Response to kristopher (Reply #3)

Tue Aug 13, 2013, 01:24 PM

13. And how does it do that?

Please be specific and avoid nonsensical claims like "it's part of a centralized system that drives demand" or similar.

What is it about nuclear power that causes increased energy consumption?

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Response to GliderGuider (Original post)

Tue Aug 13, 2013, 10:14 AM

2. "Resilient People, Resilient Planet: A Future Worth Choosing"

Contrary to your beliefs, much work is being done in this area and renewables are at the core of making a sustainable planet possible. Hall's information in that quote is terribly out of date and his view of the potential offered by renewables is an extreme outlier.

Home page for UN's Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform
http://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/

Selected from that page:
Agenda 21, UNCED
Agenda 21 is a comprehensive plan of action to be taken globally, nationally and locally by organizations of the United Nations System, Governments, and Major Groups in every area in which human impacts on the environment.

Agenda 21, the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, and the Statement of principles for the Sustainable Management of Forests were adopted by more than 178 Governments at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janerio, Brazil, 3 to 14 June 1992.

The Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) was created in December 1992 to ensure effective follow-up of UNCED, to monitor and report on implementation of the agreements at the local, national, regional and international levels. It was agreed that a five year review of Earth Summit progress would be made in 1997 by the United Nations General Assembly meeting in special session.

The full implementation of Agenda 21, the Programme for Further Implementation of Agenda 21 and the Commitments to the Rio principles, were strongly reaffirmed at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) held in Johannesburg, South Africa from 26 August to 4 September 2002.

http://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/index.php?page=view&type=400&nr=23&menu=35


"Resilient People, Resilient Planet: A Future Worth Choosing"

The High-level Panel on Global Sustainability presents its report to the Secretary-General on 30 January 2012 in Addis Ababa.
The 22-member Panel, established by the Secretary-General in August 2010 to formulate a new blueprint for sustainable development and low-carbon prosperity, was co-chaired by Finnish President Tarja Halonen and South African President Jacob Zuma. The Panel's final report, "Resilient People, Resilient Planet: A Future Worth Choosing", contains 56 recommendations to put sustainable development into practice and to mainstream it into economic policy as quickly as possible.

http://www.un.org/gsp/gsp/report

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Response to kristopher (Reply #2)

Tue Aug 13, 2013, 10:40 AM

5. A "sustainable planet"? Definition, please.

 

Here's my take on it:

No really, how sustainable are we?

To get some feel for the enormous range of uncertainty in sustainability estimates we’ll look at six assessments, each of which leads to a very different outcome. We’ll start with the most optimistic one, and work our way down the scale.

[center][/center]

The Ecological Footprint doesn't really seem intended as a measure of sustainability. Its main value is to give people with no exposure to ecology some sense that we are indeed over-exploiting our planet. (It also has the psychological advantage of feeling achievable with just a little work.) As a measure of sustainability, it is not helpful.

As I said above, the number suggested by the Thermodynamic Footprint or Fossil Fuel analysis isn't very helpful either – even a population of one billion people without fossil fuels had already gone into overshoot.

That leaves us with four estimates: two at 35 million, one of 10 million, and one of 7 million.

The central number of 35 million people is confirmed by two analyses using different data and assumptions. My conclusion is that this is probably the absolutely largest human population that could be considered sustainable. The realistic but similarly unachievable number is probably more in line with the bottom two estimates, somewhere below 10 million.

I think the lowest two estimates (Fowler 2008, and Fowler 2009) are as unrealistically high as all the others in this case, primarily because human intelligence and problem-solving ability makes our destructive impact on biodiversity a foregone conclusion. After all, we drove other species to extinction 40,000 years ago, when our total population was estimated to be under 1 million.

So, what can we do with this information? It’s obvious that we will not (and probably cannot) voluntarily reduce our population by 99.5% to 99.9%. Even an involuntary reduction of this magnitude would involve enormous suffering and a very uncertain outcome. It’s close enough to zero that if Mother Nature blinked, we’d be gone.

In fact, the analysis suggests that Homo sapiens is an inherently unsustainable species. This outcome seems virtually guaranteed by our neocortex, by the very intelligence that has enabled our rise to unprecedented dominance over our planet’s biosphere. Is intelligence an evolutionary blind alley? From the singular perspective of our own species, it quite probably is. If we are to find some greater meaning or deeper future for intelligence in the universe, we may be forced to look beyond ourselves and adopt a cosmic, rather than a human, perspective.

Question: How on earth do we get from here to a world population of 35 million people - the largest number that I think can be considered even vaguely sustainable if they live on hunter-gatherer levels of energy - by using windmills? Answer: We don't, we get there through a series of massive global ecological failures. Which are on the way.

All other dreams are unicorn poop.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #5)

Tue Aug 13, 2013, 11:03 AM

8. Just like all of your other fads...

This one is based on an outcome you had predetermined before you started. Therefore I'm not going to argue it with you as if it were a legitimately derived position. The research by the UN is extensive and far more valid than anything you produce or quote.

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Response to kristopher (Reply #8)

Tue Aug 13, 2013, 11:10 AM

9. No problemo.

 



I suggest the blue one, you'll sleep better.

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Response to GliderGuider (Original post)

Tue Aug 13, 2013, 10:22 AM

4. I claim bonus points

 

for goring two oxen with a single post.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #4)

Tue Aug 13, 2013, 10:41 AM

6. Now that's delusional. nt

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Response to GliderGuider (Original post)

Tue Aug 13, 2013, 10:41 AM

7. That last highlighted section, ...

illustrates the vulnerability of solutions. With a changing climate with unpredictable patterns, how does one position renewables for even a deescalating lifestyle of energy utilization. This is a subject avoided by enthusiasts of green technical solutions.

A good example of this is solar. So far photo voltaic garners much of the attention, especially in decentralized generation solutions. The topic never discussed is the generation of largest green house gas is already in positive feedback, I.E., water vapor. I have a small 2KW voltaic system that serves me well at this time, but I wonder of the future generation capacity. The system is designed for more than subsistence, but as the years pass by could provide subsistence for perhaps ten or more people. However, even at this time, only clear skies produce 1800W, the slightest milk clouds reduce this generation level by more than half, and the future promises more clouds. The proponents of solar do not discuss this topic, but is a real impediment of future viability effected by a cause known to be in increasing positive feedback. It is also a cause that cannot be eliminated like an anthropogenic GHG, it is a temperature driven feedback that increases as the world warms.

The same problems are found in hydro generation for subsistence, where will the water be, biomass, where will the production be consistent, and wind, when and where will it blow?

IMO -- a climate changing is a huge problem for even subsistence living, a climate in chaos is an impossible situation for present populations and social conditions.

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Response to CRH (Reply #7)

Tue Aug 13, 2013, 11:31 AM

10. Increasing climate variability is the big problem on a number of fronts.

 

If it changes chaotically it will affect renewable power production, both wind and solar (thanks for the testimonial to what light haze does to a solar panel's output), and food production.

If the Rossby waves in the polar jet keep getting deeper, more chaotic and slower-moving, we are going to see some pretty remarkable weather outcomes around the northern hemisphere. That in turn will promote large-scale population instability (frequent, rapid, chaotic migrations), as well as economic and political instability in vulnerable regions.

That combination should tend to shore up fossil fuel use - especially oil and gas which are transportable and remain functional in unstable regions.

I expect nuclear power to continue and increase its current decline. Hydro will take a hit because much of the current large dam siting is based on existing rainfall and watershed patterns. Dry reservoirs = no power. Renewable power - who knows how much it will be impacted by population, economic, political and climate instability that's coming? I don't see how that combination can provide an environment conducive to a large, rapid build-out of wind and solar.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #10)

Tue Aug 13, 2013, 12:31 PM

11. The more I read of the effects of ...

the evolving behavior of the Rossby wave effects, already apparent in the northern hemisphere, the more I feel I will see the incalculable chaotic influence in my lifetime. I feel we are rapidly passing through the changing climate phase.

When those waves stall, blocking patterns appear, towns flood, others bake, still others freeze, and agriculture fails.

I no longer wonder what life will be like after my time, I only wonder how long it will be survivable.

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Response to CRH (Reply #11)

Tue Aug 13, 2013, 12:54 PM

12. When I understood the significance of Rossby wave changes

 

I felt like I was going to throw up. I'd always looked at civilization-busters like climate change (and before that Peak Oil) as relatively gradual events that would unfold (with bumps here and there) over the next 50 or 60 years. When I understood the meaning of climate chaos in connection with the Arctic changes -how Arctic warming flattens the equator-to-pole thermal gradient and reduces the organization of the atmospheric flow patterns - I suddenly realized that it was quite possible for the world food situation to turn on a dime, to be totally disrupted within three to five years. Where the food supply goes, civilization follows.

This understanding has triggered a complete volte-face for me. After I got through my "Peak Oil is going to doom us all!" phase, I'd settled into a mood of gradualistic complacency. This busted it completely. The hysterical mewlings of Guy McPherson & Co. about near term extinction no longer seem at all far-fetched. I think we're out of time.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #12)

Tue Aug 13, 2013, 01:33 PM

14. I have these discussions with others, ...

who think I'm looney. I have a relative with a PHD who works in a low administrative level for the IPCC. She seems to think time is only the stuff worry is made of, and has apparently dismissed all thoughts that the situation as you say, could turn on a dime.

I have become detached from the outcome only because I have realized there is no individual influence I can have that will change anything. I sometimes disparage the foolish complacency the grand majority wrap their ignorance, then realize dualism serves or accomplishes nothing.

I too, think we are out of time, and it matters little if it is thirty years or a century. The out come is predicted in the science, pre recorded in geologic history, and unfolding before our eyes, for those willing to see.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #12)

Tue Aug 13, 2013, 01:54 PM

15. Article analyzing the effect

 

Here's a good article from last year by Stuart Staniford on slowing Rossby waves.
Slowing Rossby Waves Leading to Extreme Weather?

My concern stacks on top of this one. My recent investigation into thermodynamics, particularly the action of energy gradients in creating and sustaining structure in complex systems has opened a new window on this problem.

Arctic amplification reduces the tropic-pole temperature gradient, which reduces the energy flow along that gradient. Besides giving the Rossby waves the energy needed to maintain their speed of motion, this energy flow also supplies the energy necessary to let the waves maintain their relatively coherent structure. As the gradient diminishes, the pumping energy drops. As well as allowing the waves to slow, this relaxes their organization, so they become more chaotic. The resulting deeper, more irregular loops and increased numbers of breakaway regions in the waves could cause weather patterns to change radically, in addition to it taking longer for the altered patterns to clear a given area.

One additional twist is that the effect is strongest in the northern hemisphere during the summer - precisely the time when we rely on predictable, non-extreme weather to grow crops. We may have seen the early stages of this change recently in the US, China, Russia and the UK, while southern-hemisphere breadbasket Australia faces its own set of challenges:

http://www.producer.com/daily/china-seeks-australian-wheat-as-crop-damage-hits-domestic-supply/ (from three weeks ago)
http://www.earth-policy.org/indicators/C54
The world produced 2,241 million tons of grain in 2012, down 75 million tons or 3 percent from the 2011 record harvest. The drop was largely because of droughts that devastated several major crops—namely corn in the United States (the world’s largest crop) and wheat in Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and Australia. Each of these countries also is an important exporter. Global grain consumption fell significantly for the first time since 1995, as high prices dampened use for ethanol production and livestock feed. Still, overall consumption did exceed production. With drought persisting in key producing regions, there is concern that farmers in 2013 will again be unable to produce the surpluses necessary to rebuild lowered global grain reserves.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #15)

Tue Aug 13, 2013, 07:17 PM

16. Thanks for the links, ...

Stanifords' final paragraph fits exactly with what I think.

In general, it appears to me that the climate system is more complex than climate science is currently able to fully model, and so it's constantly throwing up surprises in the way it reacts to the changes humanity is making in the atmosphere. This should not be reassuring.

I would only add, 'the science is more complex than climate science is currently able to understand'. I believe the climate science today barely scratches the surface of understanding the complexities of cause and effect of all that makes up Gaia. More than a thousand climate scientists conducted the research and compiled the data into models and pathways of AR4, none of which account for the Arctic meltdown 80 years ahead of schedule.

Politics and minders aside, few scientists of the AR4 debacle herald a reality for which we are witnessing. Few admit the failures of understanding. The few who do, are no longer admitted to the party.

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Response to CRH (Reply #16)

Tue Aug 13, 2013, 08:43 PM

17. Being admitted to the party is all about status.

 

Last edited Wed Aug 14, 2013, 12:03 AM - Edit history (1)

People (not just scientists, but they're people too) are status-seeking missiles. Those who step outside the standard thought or behavior pattern of their in-group, especially if their actions cast the competence of other group members in a poor light, become a status threat to the others, who automatically close ranks to exclude them. The most common way to gain status is to be better at the group-think than the other group members.

Scientists on the outside are free to do as they please, because they have no group status to lose. And if their work passes peer review you know it's good, because their "peers" have a vested interest in trashing it.

That doesn't mean that all "outsider science" is good, of course. We see that (i.e. bad "outsider science" in the climate field all the time. Sometimes it's hard to tell a brilliant iconoclast from a clever crank.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #17)

Tue Aug 13, 2013, 10:01 PM

18. Two far-right talking points in one thread

'Renewables are counterproductive' and 'climate science is dominated by a sinister group of elites'.

Tell me why I shouldn't request the mods ban this nutbaggery.

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Response to cprise (Reply #18)

Tue Aug 13, 2013, 11:14 PM

19. Is that actually how you read it?

 

Or was there supposed to be a sarcasm tag on the post?

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Response to cprise (Reply #18)

Thu Aug 15, 2013, 11:40 AM

20. Banning nutbaggery? hmm ...

I notice you didn't answer Gliders' response, so let me delve into your apparent unhappiness.

First your italicized perception of our posts and your question of why you shouldn't have this censored.

'Renewables are counterproductive' and 'climate science is dominated by a sinister group of elites'.

First from post 7 - was a paste from the original OP article and my comments on the challenges in the future for solar photo voltaic generation, when the production of the largest GHG, water vapor, was in positive feedback producing more clouds. As well some comments were made about the challenges of positioning renewables in locations they can add significant energy to maintain present needs and desires of global civilization. I fail to see the 'nutbaggery' in these statements. The challenges for renewables in a constantly changing climate are well documented in articles that pass before this group.

I don't see anything in Glider's response, post 10, that comes close to nutbaggery, unless you consider the documented effects of Rossby waves to be science fiction. Incidentally, those effects are all too real as illustrated by the recent blocking patterns that have been resulting in extreme weather in the northern hemisphere.

Glider's post 15 links to an article on the behavior and possible influences of Rossby wave fluctuations, along with rhetorical questions as to relationships with the recent extreme weather occurrences in the northern hemisphere. All of this is fair discussion not just in the science community but in groups such as this, it is hardly nutbaggery.

Links from Glider's post 15 were excerpted, leading to comments as to the effectiveness of the IPCC, specifically AR4; and its failure to produce accurate models and pathways for the GHG and warming problems, as witnessed in the collapse of the Arctic ice from the very year AR4 was released. Is this nutbaggery, too?

Or perhaps it was because it was suggested the IPCC process was political and the data controlled by governments protecting global economy, and that those who were outside the mainstream were being marginalized, not 'admitted to the party'. It is happening just that way, not just through peer pressure, but systematically by who is chosen to compile the data, decide which data is published, and who writes the final drafts and summaries. You might want to ask David Wasdell, about this phenomenon.

Much the same can happen in forums and groups, when people have different opinions, and don't want others to express theirs. They try to sensor through slinging perceptions of nutbaggery, and threatening to contact the mods. I can't really answer your last question, that is for you to search within to ascertain if censorship adequately soothes your indignation of other's opinions.


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Response to CRH (Reply #20)

Fri Aug 16, 2013, 11:07 AM

24. Thanks for being a voice of reason.

 

I have to admit that comment caught me totally off-guard. I know I tend to be an obstinate contrarian, but I've never pictured myself as a RW nutbag (but of course I wouldn't, would I?)

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #24)

Fri Aug 16, 2013, 04:00 PM

25. I don't think either one of us,

would fit in with the RW nutbag types. Then again, we don't really fit in with the far left technophiles either. Like some others in this group we tend to keep our own council, and sustain our 'evolving' beliefs through accumulating more information and applying our own individual methods of logic. In short there really is no hope for us, we will always be this way, often contrarian, sometimes stubborn until convinced, sometimes even wrong; but never easily intimidated into accepting others opinions, without due diligence of concept.

Variety of thoughts and opinions, keeps life interesting.

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Response to GliderGuider (Original post)

Fri Aug 16, 2013, 07:51 AM

21. We'll get out of it.

It just won't be pretty.

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Response to joshcryer (Reply #21)

Fri Aug 16, 2013, 09:48 AM

22. Like digging our way out of prison through the latrine?

 

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #22)

Fri Aug 16, 2013, 09:50 AM

23. Basically.

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Response to GliderGuider (Original post)

Sat Aug 17, 2013, 10:38 AM

26. Lets face the truth, people are not going to change and its too late

 

Your last paragraph does a good job of summing up the problem we face and that fact that most people will never change their current energy wasting lifestyle for the long term good of the planet. They just cannot think that far ahead and thus we are going to face major problems in the next 30 years the likes they cannot possibly imagine.

Most people believe our current oil based lifestyle will never end. Just ask them.

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