Energy News ArticlesExcerpts of Key Energy News Articles in Media
Norway said that electric or hybrid cars represented half of new registrations in the country so far in 2017, as Norway continues its trend towards becoming one of the most ecologically progressive countries in the world. According to figures from the Road Traffic Information Council (OFV) ... sales of electric cars accounted for 17.6 per cent of new vehicle registrations in January and hybrid cars accounted for 33.8 per cent, for a combined 51.4 per cent. Norway already has the highest per capita number of all-electric cars in the world. The milestone is also particularly significant as a large proportion of Norway’s funds rely on the country’s petroleum industry. "This is a milestone on Norway's road to an electric car fleet," Climate and Environment minister Vidar Helgesen [said]. “The transport sector is the biggest challenge for climate policy in the decade ahead. We need to reduce (CO2) emissions by at least 40 per cent by 2030," he added. Last year, the government agreed on a proposal to ban the sale of new gasoline and diesel-powered car starting in 2025. It also aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions of new cars to 85 grams per kilometre by 2020 - a goal it has almost achieved: : the figure stood at 88 grams in February compared to 133 grams when the decision was taken five years ago. In December, Norway registered its 100,000th electric car. Norway has also become the first country in the world to commit to zero deforestation.
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The solar panels - 3,852 of them - shimmered above 10 acres of Jimmy Carter’s soil where peanuts and soybeans used to grow. 38 years after Mr. Carter installed solar panels at the White House, only to see them removed during Ronald Reagan’s administration, the former president is leasing part of his family’s farmland for [the] project. It is, Mr. Carter and energy experts said, a small-scale effort that could hold lessons for other pockets of pastoral America in an age of climate change and political rancor. “I hope that we’ll see a realization on the part of the new administration that one of the best ways to provide new jobs - good-paying and productive and innovative jobs - is through the search for renewable sources of energy,” Mr. Carter, 92, said in an interview. Although Mr. Carter, now decades removed from the night in February 1977 when he donned a cardigan sweater and spoke of the country’s “energy problem,” remains a keen student of energy policy, the solar project is also an extension of his legacy. The project on Mr. Carter’s land, which feeds into Georgia Power’s grid and earns the former first family less than $7,000 annually, did not need to be large to serve much of Plains, population 683 or so. It began when a solar firm, SolAmerica, approached Mr. Carter’s grandson Jason Carter about the possibility of installing panels here. The former president, who was 11 when his boyhood home got running water after his father installed a windmill, did not need convincing and became deeply involved with the project, writing notes in the margins of the lease agreement and visiting the site regularly.
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For nearly 100 years, scientists have dreamed of turning the lightest of all the elements, hydrogen, into a metal. Now, in a stunning act of modern-day alchemy, scientists at Harvard University have finally succeeded in creating a tiny amount of [this] material. Metallic hydrogen could theoretically revolutionise technology, enabling the creation of super-fast computers, high-speed levitating trains and ultra-efficient vehicles and dramatically improving almost anything involving electricity. But the prospect of this bright future could be at risk if the scientists’ next step – to establish whether the metal is stable at normal pressures and temperatures – fails to go as hoped. Professor Isaac Silvera, who made the breakthrough with Dr Ranga Dias, said: “This is the holy grail of high-pressure physics. “It's the first-ever sample of metallic hydrogen on Earth, so when you're looking at it, you're looking at something that’s never existed before.” At the moment the tiny piece of metal can only be seen through two diamonds that were used to crush liquid hydrogen at a temperature far below freezing. The amount of pressure needed was immense – more than is found at the centre of the Earth. Sometime in the next few weeks, the researchers plan to carefully ease the pressure. According to one theory, metallic hydrogen will be stable at room temperature. If this is true, then [it] could ... transform humanity’s efforts to explore our solar system by providing a form of rocket fuel nearly four times more powerful than the best available today.
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Solar energy is now cheaper than traditional fossil fuels. Solar and wind is now either the same price or cheaper than new fossil fuel capacity in more than 30 countries, according to a new report from the World Economic Forum. The influential foundation has described the change as a "tipping point" that could make fighting climate change into a profitable form of business for energy companies. But investors and energy firms are still failing to put money into such green solutions despite the fact that they are cheaper than more traditional forms of electricity generation. “Renewable energy has reached a tipping point – it now constitutes the best chance to reverse global warming,” said Michael Drexler, Head of Long Term Investing, Infrastructure and Development at the World Economic Forum. Just ten years ago, generating electricity through solar cost about $600 per MWh, and it cost only $100 to generate the same amount of power through coal and natural gas. But ... today it only costs around $100 the generate the same amount of electricity through solar and $50 through wind. The cheap price of solar and wind energy is already encouraging companies to build more plants to harvest it. The US is adding about 125 solar panels every minute ... and investment in renewables in 2015 rose to $286 billion, up 5 per cent from the year before. Even despite that cheap price ... the worldwide investment is only 25 per cent of the $1 trillion goal set in the landmark Paris climate change accord.
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Almost all Costa Rica's electricity was produced by renewable energy in 2016. The Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) said that around 98.1 per cent of the country’s electricity came from green sources. These included large hydropower facilities, fed by a myriad of rivers and heavy seasonal rains, geothermal plants, wind turbines, solar panels and biomass plants. The country used carbon-free electricity for more than 250 days last year with a continuous 110-day stretch from 17 June until 6 October. Science and environment journalist Maria Gallucci described the tropical country as "a verdant gem amid a pile of black coal rocks". In comparison, less than 15 per cent of the US electricity supply for January to October 2016 was renewable. Coal and natural gas together made up nearly two-thirds of the US electricity generation over that period and nuclear power provided the remaining 19 per cent. ICE president Carlos Manuel Obregón said he expected renewable power generation to stay “stable” in Costa Rica in 2017. The country, which hosts more than five per cent of the world’s species biodiversity despite a landmass that covers 0.03 per cent of the planet, has recently set up four new wind farms. Costa Rican clean development adviser Dr Monica Araya has said the extent of Costa Rica's renewable electricity generation is a “fantastic achievement".
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Researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, a Department of Energy lab in Tennessee, have discovered a mechanism for converting carbon dioxide into ethanol. Their method takes advantage of nanotechnology, creating a catalyst that produces ethanol from a solution of carbon dioxide in water. “We discovered somewhat by accident that this material worked,” said Adam Rondinone, the lead author of a new study in the journal ChemistrySelect. “We were trying to study the first step of a proposed reaction when we realized that the catalyst was doing the entire reaction on its own.” The discovery may change the way we think about carbon dioxide. If it could be captured and turned into a fuel, then carbon dioxide – the earth-polluting byproduct of global dependence on fossil fuels – could help high-energy societies work toward energy independence. Repurposing carbon dioxide could be invaluable for the environment, the researchers say. Converting it into ethanol can turn a greenhouse gas into a gasoline-like fuel source. Ethanol contains one-third less energy than gasoline but produces far fewer byproducts when burned in engines, which can limit further carbon emissions. “Closing the carbon cycle by utilizing CO2 as a feedstock for currently used commodities, in order to displace a fossil feedstock, is an appropriate intermediate step towards a carbon-free future,” the researchers wrote in the study.
Aidan Dwyer, 13, went to the woods and had a eureka moment that could be a major breakthrough in solar panel design. The 7th-grader ... noticed a pattern among tree branches, and determined (as naturalist Charles Bonnet did in 1754) that the pattern represented the Fibonacci sequence of numbers. Aidan wondered why, and figured it had something to do with photosynthesis. In a pretty innovative experiment, this intrepid young scientist set about duplicating an oak tree, comparing its sunlight-capturing abilities to a traditional rooftop solar panel array. He copied the pattern using a computer program, and built an oak tree-shaped solar array out of PVC pipe. He next built a flat-panel array mounted at 45 degrees, like a typical home rooftop array, and attached data loggers to each model to monitor voltage. Aidan's award-winning essay ... walks you through his experiment design and his results. But the short story is that his tree design generated much more electricity - especially ... when the sun is at its lowest point in the sky. At that point, the tree design generated 50 percent more power, without any adjustments to its declination angle. He determined the tree's Fibonacci pattern allowed some solar panels to collect sunlight even if others were in shade, and prevented branches on a tree from shading other branches. Now Aidan is studying other tree species and improving his PVC model to determine how it could be used to make more efficient solar arrays.
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Researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have developed a new flow battery that stores energy in organic molecules dissolved in neutral pH water. This new chemistry allows for a non-toxic, non-corrosive battery with an exceptionally long lifetime and offers the potential to significantly decrease the costs of production. Flow batteries store energy in liquid solutions in external tanks - the bigger the tanks, the more energy they store. Flow batteries are a promising storage solution for renewable, intermittent energy like wind and solar but today’s flow batteries often suffer degraded energy storage capacity after many charge-discharge cycles. The Harvard team was able to engineer a battery that loses only one percent of its capacity per 1000 cycles. “Lithium ion batteries don’t even survive 1000 complete charge/discharge cycles,” said [researcher Michael] Aziz. “Because we were able to dissolve the electrolytes in neutral water, this is a long-lasting battery that you could put in your basement,” said [researcher Roy] Gordon. “If it spilled on the floor, it wouldn’t eat the concrete and since the medium is noncorrosive, you can use cheaper materials to build the components of the batteries, like the tanks and pumps.” The Department of Energy (DOE) has set a goal of building a battery that can store energy for less than $100 per kilowatt-hour. “If you can get anywhere near this cost target then you change the world,” said Aziz.
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Power plant turbines might be getting smaller. The tech is still in its early stages but GE Global Research is developing a turbine that - though only the size of the average desk - could someday power entire towns. The principle behind it could have a big effect on the future of turbine power. Instead of being pushed by steam, like most power plant turbines, the "minirotor" as [steam turbine specialist at GE Global Research Doug] Hofer calls it is pushed by CO2. Not gaseous CO2, or liquid CO2, but CO2 so hot and pressurized that it forms what is called a supercritical fluid, a state of heat and pressure so extreme that the distinctions between liquid and gas basically cease to exist. The tiny turbine's design is intended to harness the power of this specific (and weird) state of matter which could make the turbines as much as 50 percent efficient at turning heat to electricity, a significant improvement over ~45 percent efficient steam turbines. On top of that, these turbines should be relatively easy to spin up or down as demand shifts allowing power plants to more accurately tweak supply on the fly. The prototype design is a 10 MW turbine, though GE hopes to be able to scale the tech to enough to power a city, somewhere in the 500 megawatt range. The first physical tests are scheduled for later this year.
842 megawatts is ... more than enough to power all the homes in the Denver metro area. It’s also enough to keep about 15 percent of Google’s data centers humming. On Thursday, Google announced that it had finalized contracts to buy 842 megawatts of wind and solar energy from plants in the US, Chile, and Sweden, nearly doubling the company's total clean energy capacity. The contracts ... help to give the energy companies financial stability to be able to build additional clean energy facilities. Renewable energy now provides about 37 percent of the total energy consumed by Google’s data centers worldwide. This purchase is the largest of its kind ever made by a non-utility company, but Google isn’t the only tech giant shifting over to clean energy. One of Facebook’s five data centers is powered entirely by a nearby wind farm, and the company says it plans to get 50 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2018. Amazon’s cloud computing division announced last year that its operations would eventually be powered completely by clean energy. And in 2014, Apple announced that all of its offices, stores, and data centers in the US were being powered ... renewable sources. Google was one of 13 large companies that collectively invested more than $140 billion in new clean energy projects in July as part of the American Business Act on Climate Pledge. Apple and Microsoft were also part of the pledge; both companies said their operations would eventually be 100 percent powered by renewable energy.
A revolution of sorts is brewing in the clean energy field, with the emergence of fusion and "low energy nuclear reaction" (LENR) energy. These processes, unlike fission reactions used in conventional nuclear reactors, need not emit dangerous radiation, nor do they produce radioactive byproducts. The fuel is plentiful and free. One pioneer in LENR is Andrea Rossi, an Italian-American inventor-entrepreneur ... who recently formed a venture to commercially market systems based on an LENR process he has developed. Many are understandably skeptical of Rossi's claims; yet he reports that he has a full-scale working prototype, delivering 1 MWatt continuous net output power, which is already seven months into a one-year acceptance test at a commercial client's site. Several observers have seen the system in operation, and have reported that it is working as claimed. On 25 August 2015, the U.S. Patent Office awarded Rossi a patent for his process. Given the potential importance of these developments, scientifically, economically and environmentally, we have been following progress in this area in earlier Huffington Post articles (HP#1) and (HP#2). "We foresee applications for central heating of commercial buildings, heat production for industrial processes and electric power generation. My dream is for domestic heat and power generation," [said Rossi]. "We have already obtained safety certification for our industrial plants. Domestic systems are still on course in the certification process."
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Some 1.3 billion people worldwide live without electricity, affecting health, lowering incomes, and making education difficult. An increasing number of advocates ... are promoting the use of solar power to [increase] access to clean energy across the globe. Solar is a low-cost energy source in the long run, but it has high initial costs. Some solar manufacturers and energy distributors are helping people skirt these up-front costs through creative financing models. In programs such as these, customers can finance their own solar systems for less than what they would otherwise be spending on kerosene ($40-$80 per year on average). Barefoot College developed a training program for grandmothers, who ... learn how to install, maintain, and repair the solar systems and, upon graduation, receive a monthly salary for their work. Solar Sister trains rural African women in sales and entrepreneurship, empowering them to become active participants in the economy while acknowledging that “women invest 90 percent of their income into their family’s well being.” Lighting a Billion Lives trains local entrepreneurs to manage their own solar charging station, from which they rent out solar lamps for a modest price to the local population. The organization also offers microloans and subsidies to facilitate such entrepreneurship. Grameen Shakti (Bangladesh), SolarAid (Africa), and Kamworks (Cambodia) operate with similar values. In this way, solar companies are ... empowering families [and] communities.
Arizona’s largest utility company has been at odds with the solar panel industry for years. Now, APS [Arizona Public Service, the state’s largest utility] is asking the Federal Trade Commission to crack down on solar companies. But they didn’t ask them directly. Six Arizona Congressmen sent letters to federal regulators asking them to investigate solar leasing companies. Reporter Evan Wyloge ... has the original letter and proves it’s actually APS spearheading the effort. Arizona Public Service [is] one of the largest campaign donors for the group of lawmakers. The APS-authored, congressmen-signed letter comes as the latest in an ongoing effort to stymie third-party solar panel companies, whose business has grown tenfold over the past half-decade, presenting a challenge to the long-term business model of traditional utilities like APS. The high-profile fight between the traditional utility and newer rooftop solar panel companies is not unique to Arizona. Similar struggles have emerged in other states. On Nov. 19, Democratic Reps. Ron Barber, Ann Kirkpatrick and Kyrsten Sinema asked [regulators] in a joint letter to ... look into solar panel leasing practices. Then, on Dec. 12, Republican Reps. Trent Franks, Paul Gosar and Matt Salmon sent a similar letter to the FTC. After both letters were sent, the Arizona Corporation Commission voted late in 2014 to open a docket on consumer complaints about solar companies. Initial hearings are expected to begin this spring.
Longmont [Colorado] has become a cautionary tale of what can happen when cities decide to confront the oil and gas industry. In an aggressive response to a wave of citizen-led drilling bans, state officials, energy companies and industry groups are taking Longmont and other municipalities to court, forcing local governments into ... expensive, long-shot efforts to defend the measures. Two years ago, [Longmont] residents voted to ban hydraulic fracturing from their grassy open spaces and a snow-fed reservoir. In Colorado, the energy industry, which argues that cities lack the authority to outlaw fracking, has already won rulings overturning three fracking prohibitions. Longmont, which sits near the juncture of rolling plains and jagged mountains, has spent about $136,000 fighting — unsuccessfully so far — to defend a 2012 measure that outlawed fracking. In July, a district court judge tossed out the ban, and the city is appealing. A judge also overturned a fracking ban last year in Fort Collins, Colo., and denied pleas from the city to keep the ban in place while local officials went to court to defend a five-year fracking moratorium. In Broadview Heights, Ohio, energy companies are suing the town — and residents are suing the energy companies in return — over a bill of rights that outlawed fracking and the disposal of its byproducts. While the Longmont City Council voted unanimously in August to defend the fracking ban, other towns have decided it is just too costly a fight.
Your next commuter car could have two seats, three wheels and get 84 miles to the gallon. Elio Motors wants to revolutionize U.S. roads with its tiny car, which is the same length as a Honda Fit but half the weight. With a starting price of $6,800, it's also less than half the cost. Phoenix-based Elio plans to start making the cars next fall at a former General Motors plant in Shreveport, Louisiana. Already, more than 27,000 people have reserved one. Elio hopes to make 250,000 cars a year by 2016. Because it has three wheels — two in front and one in the rear — the Elio is actually classified as a motorcycle by the U.S. government. But Elio Motors founder Paul Elio says the vehicle has all the safety features of a car, like anti-lock brakes, front and side air bags and a steel cage that surrounds the occupants. Drivers won't be required to wear helmets or have motorcycle licenses. The Elio's two seats sit front and back instead of side by side, so the driver is positioned in the center with the passenger directly behind. The Elio has a three-cylinder, 0.9-liter engine and a top speed of more than 100 miles per hour. It gets an estimated 84 mpg on the highway and 49 mpg in city driving. Elio keeps the costs down in several ways. The car only has one door, on the left side, which shaves a few hundred dollars off the manufacturing costs. Having three wheels also makes it cheaper. It will be offered in just two configurations — with a manual or automatic transmission — and it has standard air conditioning, power windows and door locks and an AM/FM radio. More features, such as navigation or blind-spot detection, can be ordered.
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This week's U.S. air strikes in northern Iraq are being accompanied with an undertow of "it's all about oil" talk. Take for example, Columbia School of Journalism Dean Steve Coll's observation in The New Yorker, that "Obama's defense of Erbil (capital of the semiautonomous Kurdish region) is effectively the defense of an undeclared Kurdish oil state." It's no secret that Iraqi Kurdistan has an abundance of oil reserves, nor that U.S. oil companies, like [Chevron] are busy exploring there. Chevron has three "production sharing contracts" with the Kurdish government, covering a combined 444,000 acres, north of Irbil, where it's in the early testing and drilling stage. And it likes what it sees. Asked for an update, a Chevron spokesman said Monday, "We continue monitoring the situation. We remain in regular contact with the Kurdistan Regional Government and are dedicated to supporting the (Kurdistan Region of Iraq) in developing its natural resources." A potentially bigger worry for both Chevron and the Kurds .. could be if Iraq did stabilize and unite, with Kurdistan under its umbrella. For Chevron ... a new arrangement in Iraq could entail the renegotiation of contracts it has with the Kurds, which by the way, Baghdad refused to recognize. Kurdistan's oil pipeline via Turkey continues to pump out oil - 120,000 barrels per day.
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Energy companies are fracking for oil and gas at far shallower depths than widely believed, sometimes through underground sources of drinking water, according to research released [on August 12] by Stanford University scientists. Fracking involves high-pressure injection of millions of gallons of water mixed with sand and chemicals to crack geological formations and tap previously unreachable oil and gas reserves. Fracking fluids contain a host of chemicals, including known carcinogens and neurotoxins. Fears about possible water contamination and air pollution have fed resistance in communities around the country. Fracking into underground drinking water sources is not prohibited by the 2005 Energy Policy Act, which exempted the practice from key provisions of the Safe Drinking Water Act. But the industry has long held that it does not hydraulically fracture into underground sources of drinking water because oil and gas deposits sit far deeper than aquifers. The study, however, found that energy companies used acid stimulation ... and hydraulic fracturing in the Wind River and Fort Union geological formations that make up the Pavillion gas field and that contain both natural gas and sources of drinking water. “Thousands of gallons of diesel fuel and millions of gallons of fluids containing numerous inorganic and organic additives were injected directly into these two formations during hundreds of stimulation events,” concluded Dominic DiGiulio and Robert Jackson of Stanford’s School of Earth Sciences.
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In a quiet announcement that has sent shockwaves through the scientific world, NASA has cautiously given its seal of approval to a new type of “impossible” engine that could revolutionize space travel. In a paper published by the agency’s experimental Eagleworks Laboratories, NASA engineers confirmed that they had produced tiny amounts of thrust from an engine without propellant – an apparent violation of the conservation of momentum; the law of physics that states that every action must have an equal and opposite reaction. NASA’s engineers have tested an engine known as a ‘Cannae Drive’, a machine [that] uses electricity to generate microwaves, bouncing them around inside a specially designed container that theoretically creates a difference in radiation pressure and so results in directional thrust. In an ordinary engine the rocket moves forward as fuel is flung backwards - the momentum of the rocket (a measure of both its mass and velocity combined) is 'conserved' because it is moved from the rocket to the fuel. However, with the Cannae Drive there is no fuel - the microwaves aren't expelled from the engine. NASA’s scientists tested a version of the drive designed by US scientist Guido Fetta and found that the propellantless engine was able to produce between 30 and 50 micronewtons of thrust – a tiny amount (0.00003 to 0.00005 per cent of the force of an iPhone pressing down when held in the hand) but still a great deal more than nothing.
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Last week ... the wholesale price of electricity in Queensland fell into negative territory – in the middle of the day. For several days the price, normally around $40-$50 a megawatt hour, hovered in and around zero. Prices were deflated throughout the week, largely because of the influence of one of the newest, biggest power stations in the state – rooftop solar. “Negative pricing” moves, as they are known, are not uncommon. But they are only supposed to happen at night, when most of the population is mostly asleep, [and] demand is down That's not supposed to happen at lunchtime. Daytime prices are supposed to reflect higher demand, when people are awake, office buildings are in use, factories are in production. That's when fossil fuel generators would normally be making most of their money. The influx of rooftop solar has turned this model on its head. The impact has been so profound, and wholesale prices pushed down so low, that few coal generators in Australia made a profit last year. Hardly any are making a profit this year. State-owned generators like Stanwell are specifically blaming rooftop solar. The problem for Australian consumers [comes] in the cost of delivery of [electricity] through the transmission and distribution networks, and from retail costs and taxes. This is the cost which is driving households to take up rooftop solar, in such proportions that the level of rooftop solar is forecast ... to rise sixfold over the next decade. Households are tipped to spend up to $30bn on rooftop modules. It is not clear how centralised, fossil-fuel generation can adapt. In an energy democracy, even free coal has no value.
The energy world is not keeping up with Elon Musk, so he's trying to take matters into his own hands. Musk, chairman of the solar installer SolarCity, announced [on June 17] that the company would acquire a solar panel maker and build factories "an order of magnitude" bigger than the plants that currently churn out panels. Musk is also a founder and the CEO of the electric vehicle maker Tesla Motors, which is planning what it calls a "gigafactory" to supply batteries for its cars. In both cases, Musk's goal is to make sure that the components critical to his vision of the future — electric cars and solar energy — are available and cheap enough to beat fossil fuels. Musk's future customer could ignore traditional energy companies completely. They'd have SolarCity panels on their roof that would generate enough power [to] charge up a Tesla [car] in the garage. A Tesla battery could then power the home at night with stored solar power. Musk has made a career of thinking far into the future. He is also the CEO of SpaceX, the rocket company with an ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets. SolarCity says it won't try to turn out more of the garden-variety panels now clogging the market. Instead, it wants to make panels that are more efficient, and make them at a low cost in huge factories in order to reduce the overall cost of solar electricity. Just as he drew customers to electric vehicles by making sleek, fast sports cars, Musk wants to attract homeowners to solar with pretty panels. "We want to have a cool-looking aesthetically pleasing solar system on your roof," he said.
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