Thursday, October 12, 2006

Insert Clever "Hot Air" Pun Here

Despite some encouraging leaks about mandatory targets, the early reviews of the Conservative Green Plan seem to be mostly negative. A lot of the criticism seems to stem on the fact that the targets will be intensity based rather than fixed caps, which means emissions will continue to rise over the next few years. Here are a few of my preliminary thoughts on this:

1. It's a little unfair to slam the "intensity" based approach until we see what the requirements will be. I mean, if you force an industry to cut back their per capita emissions at a larger rate than the industry is growing you have, for all intents and purposes capped that industry.

2. Mandatory intensity based targets are better than voluntary intensity based targets which is what the Liberal Kyoto plan called for.

3. Given that oil sands production is expected to double in the next decade, would it even be possible to put a hard cap on emissions for this industry? Without causing an armed uprising in Alberta, that is.

4. That said, given that the oil industry is the biggest emitter in Canada, that Alberta is the province with the most emissions and that six of the top 10 worst polluting companies are in wild rose country, Harper is going to have to upset some people in his home province if he wants to make any sort of progress on this file. No Prime Minister has ever had as much political capital in Alberta as Stephen Harper does right now so if there is every anyone who can afford to burn some political goodwill for the good of the country, Harper is the man to do that. As I said above, you don't need to cap oilsands production, but you need to come down hard on the oil and gas sector if you want to make real changes.

5. The timeline for this is really bad. Another year of consultation and no mandatory limits until 2010? There's been enough talk, it's time for some action.

6. The Conservatives are counting on future technologies to cut greenhouse gases in the long term. This marks the first time a Conservative government has ever put their faith in science...

7. Since he's the resident environmentalist in the comments section here, I invite everyone to check out Green's Clues' take on this.


  • An armed uprising in Alberta? D'you know, if Alberta seperated, what remained of Canada would probably be able to meet its Kyoto requirements. And Alberta would be a pariah state,a smoking wasteland (like Mordor).

    By Blogger bigcitylib, at 12:40 p.m.  

  • Yes, theoretically, if what the conservatives were concerned about was the actual amount of pollutants being spewed into the atmosphere, they could use an intensity based cap in order to keep the pollution below a certain level.

    It would be easier, wouldn't it, to simply cap emmissions if that's what they were interested in doing. So I think it's fair to assume that by going with intensity caps, absolute levels of pollution are not what they are interested in. They are interested in pollution per GDP.

    Because an extremely wealthy country with air it can't breath is a desirable end-state.

    The problem with intensity caps is this: We have an atmosphere that isn't increasing in size at the same pace as our economy.

    Actually, I'm pretty confident it's not measurably increasing in size at all.

    So intensity based caps essentially call for a mild slowing in the polluting of our environment.

    But hey! It's a mandatory mild slowing. Yee haw.

    By Blogger Gauntlet, at 1:11 p.m.  

  • One correction CG, and that is that Kyoto set voluntary emissions targets, not voluntary intensity targets.

    Of course Kyoto is voluntary - it requires individual signatories to take the steps necessary to reach their targets in their own country. It's not Kyoto's fault that it's ntomandatory, it's the governments' fault (both of them so far) that they haven't made mandatory prescriptions for meeting Canada's voluntary targets.

    So it's the difference between emissions and intensity that's important.

    Bear in mind that our efficiency has been constantly improving, at least since the industrial revolution. That is to say that if we had imposed iefficiency targets 200 years ago, we would still be inthe mess we are in today. Our hunger for more output has consistently outpaced our ability to reduce the proportional inputs. We have gotten constantly more efficient, and constantly more polluting.

    With efficiency targets, we can expect that to continue.


    By Blogger Gavin Magrath, at 1:15 p.m.  

  • gauntlet; Intensity targets by themselves aren't bad. The carbon tax, which I know you like, is a form of this since it punishes on a per capita basis rather than simply capping emmisions.

    For example, if it were possible to require a 50% improvement in emmisions for the oil industry, it wouldn't matter than the industry itself doubles. This would be far more effective than simply preventing expansion. I don't think any party has proposed hard caps on all industries and it's impossible to cap the oil and gas industry given the massive expansion which is already in process there.

    Like I said, it will depend on how strict the rules are and I'm not overly optimistic given early reports and the promise of endless consultation but we'll see...

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 1:25 p.m.  

  • Realisticly, the Tories will never get a fair shake from media outlets like the Globe or CBC when it comes to the environment, so their best option is to go for results.

    To me protecting the natural environment means having clean air and accessible, full-service national parks so citizens can be healthy and enjoy nature's beauty. From my perspective, living in midtown Toronto, I would like to see fewer smog days during the summer and be able to go and visit parks on the weekend for fishing, camping or hunting. To me, that would be envrionmental dollars well spent - rather than the Liberal plan of sending billions of dollars overseas to buy pollution credits.

    Finally, I think the focus on technology is the best way to reduce greenhouse gases in the long run. Why should people give up their lifestyles, when there are realistic chances of developing technologies that could allow us to consume more while leaving a smaller environmental footprint? Having our cake and eating it too is a much more attractive option than Liberal-style ideological finger wagging.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 1:33 p.m.  

  • Alberta based Pembina Institute has completed a study,and calculated that for oilsands development to become carbon neutral, it would cost in the order of a few dollars per barrel in reductions or offsets.

    Even at today's production rate of say 1 million barrels /d and $3 offset cost- that $3 million per day can buy lots of lunches, fund lots of lobbyists, and support many political campaigns (especially if they are playing by no limit Texas hold-em rules as the PCs in Alberta are now doing).

    So, given that oilsands production is headed for 5 million/d in say 15 yrs, its purely economics for the oil and gas guys.

    The oilsands resource will still be developed at the same rate, and same level of investment. Its too important for US energy security.

    Placing a full cap on oilsands C02 emissions will not be a constraint. The Conservative "reduction in intensity" level is simply a cave-in to O&G industry.

    By Blogger The Anonymous Green, at 1:39 p.m.  

  • Andrew:

    All reasonable points, except... the Conservative plan, er, sorry I mean, "approach" doesn't accomplish or even try to accomplish any of that.

    It's all smog and mirrors. They really are emitting gas out of their a**. etc. etc.

    By Blogger Ted Betts, at 1:51 p.m.  

  • The Tories are looking for new technologies by 2050 to help.

    A lot of scientists say we only have about 10 years or so to stop the greenhouse gases and their effects from becoming damaging or irreverisble.

    This plan is nothing but a sop to Harper's corporate Big Oil friends.

    Intensity caps are useless if oil and gas production goes up, which it undoubtedly will with the focus on the Tarsands, and the US eying more secure places to buy oil from. As someone else said.. it will do nothing but allow greenhouse gases to continue spewing in our atmospsher.. possibly at a slower rate.

    THis plan should be a non-starter for Canadians.. and summarily thrown onto the scrap heap.

    By Blogger Oxford County Liberals, at 2:04 p.m.  

  • A very fair assessment of the Tory plan.. err... approach.

    2010 seems to be an important year for some reason. CRC researchers hope to make hydrogen-cell based cars marketable by 2010 as well.

    By Blogger Eric, at 3:22 p.m.  

  • //5. The timeline for this is really bad. Another year of consultation and no mandatory limits until 2010? There's been enough talk, it's time for some action.//

    The Martin Liberals struck a deal for voluntary limits with the Ontario auto industry till 2010.

    Blame Martin and Dion for that, not Harper.

    How can you go to Alberta with a mandatory deal before 2010, when Ontario has a voluntary deal, and how can one renege on Ontario's voluntary deal.

    McGuinty and Hargrove were complaining already with the auto industry just being called to a meeting.

    By Blogger godot10, at 3:31 p.m.  

  • //3. Given that oil sands production is expected to double in the next decade, would it even be possible to put a hard cap on emissions for this industry? Without causing an armed uprising in Alberta, that is.//

    Actually, oilsands production will triple, from about 1 million bpd, to 3 million bpd in a decade.

    By Blogger godot10, at 3:33 p.m.  

  • Big City Lib, if we leave, you get to find an extra 9.5 billion a year for transfers... plus you can make up the 30% of GDP Alberta is responsible for... Not to mention we are the watershed for the entire midwest, so I guess we'd just have to charge for water too.

    I can live with a big red eye painted on my back.

    I agree CG.

    Cerb... as opposed to what? The vaunted Liberal approach of spending money on dinners in other nations to talk about doing something for 13 years?

    I agree with you Andrew.

    Scott, it doesn't matter if we only have about 10 years to do something, because the Mayans figure the world ends in 2012, which is about as valid as your environmentalists saying we have to do something in 10 years.

    They said the same thing about florocarbons, and we're all still here, so's the ozone.

    Whats the difference, the earth will solve it for us if we don't... we just won't see the final act.

    By Blogger Joe Calgary, at 3:48 p.m.  

  • Joe Calgary, If you left I might be willing to take a pay cut.

    The rest of your post is a bit flippant. Perhaps you don't want to be here for the last act, but your kids might.

    Also, the Montreal Accord is one of the great environmental success stories. The depletion of the ozone layer has taken a little longer to fix than was first thought, but we may have turned a corner on this one. Shows what happens when you ignoring the bleating of industry.

    By Blogger bigcitylib, at 3:59 p.m.  

  • Montreal Protocol, that is. Note the Canadian city in the name, though. Thats from a time when Canada was a leader in this sort of thing, not cowering before the Oil Patch.

    By Blogger bigcitylib, at 4:02 p.m.  

  • "Cerb... as opposed to what? The vaunted Liberal approach of spending money on dinners in other nations to talk about doing something for 13 years?"

    Joe, we've banged this around before. First, answering 'who cares if we aren't doing anything because the Liberals didn't do anything either' is not an answer. Certainly not an answer to the 75% of the population that didn't vote Liberal or to those who have been unhappy with the Liberal response so far.

    Second, under Martin, there finally was a lot of action. Lots of specific regulations and standards that the Conservatives just brushed aside in order to appear to be do something.

    The more things change the more they stay the same.

    By Blogger Ted Betts, at 4:27 p.m.  

  • Alberta based Pembina Institute has completed a study,and calculated that for oilsands development to become carbon neutral, it would cost in the order of a few dollars per barrel in reductions or offsets.

    Interesting. If that's true, then someone should certainly pass legislation insisting on it. It might have to be the provincial PCs but, either way, 2$ or 3$ a barrel isn't unreasonable given the massive profits. With Canada's low royalty rates and the high cost of oil, it would still be incredibly profitable and this wouldn't slow production dramatically.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 4:43 p.m.  

  • I think the Tories are selling themselves short constantly comparing themselves to the Liberals on the environment. Remember, progress under the Liberals was backwards, so it won't take much for Harper to be better than the Liberals.

    Any environment plan must also not be devistanting to the country's economy, or hurt any one region disproportionately. The oil sands are one of Canada's greatest natural assets, and it is our responsibility to exploit them in order to enrich our country. Yes, the oil sands are dirty, but as the technology improves the companies will invest in cleaner technology.

    To do what some here are suggesting would slam one region of the country just to make another feel good. That type of action will have disasterous effects on national unity and our country's economy.

    Please folks, let's look at the big picture before we get all alarmist.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 4:44 p.m.  

  • Andrew,

    Thats what we all hold hands and jump together. Slap a few bucks on a barrel of oil to make the sands carbon neutral; regulate the automakers and encourage hyrbrids etc.

    By Blogger bigcitylib, at 5:29 p.m.  

  • Well, now I wish I'd worked a bit harder on that post - CG, I'm seriously honoured.

    I actually find this all really fascinating - I'm no scientist by any means, and the discussion here on intensity targets is truly absorbing.

    I'm on the fence regarding anthropogenic (man-made) global warming - there are genuine questions and holes. But I'll be honest, I'm a disgraceful coward, and I think we should err on the side of caution. Further, if global warming is real, it doesn't matter if it's natural or man-made -- we have to start to *act*. Do we build Hoover Dams around the most important cities of the world, or re-locate them? (If it's re-location, I definitely want to have a say in getting the street layouts better this time, with more logical street numbers.)

    Harper's announcement surprised me because it was so clumsy - why leak out all this "big news is coming!" talk? HarperBizarro suggests that it's all an act, and that the real enviro legislation will arrive just before an election. Hm, maybe.

    I want to be VERY CLEAR about this next part: If Alberta left, Canada will know the bitter agony of regret. That province has been kicked so much by Ottawa that we should all, every single one of us, handsign a giant card to say, "Thanks for sticking with us, guys." Alberta deserves better than what it gets in Ottawa, yet for some reason, still enriches our federal coffers each year with nary a complaint. I can't imagine what would make someone so flippant about a very vital province. Yes, Calgary is uncool and not Toronto or Montreal - why do you think that is? Most important: Why this combative flippancy? Any Albertan that I know of on the internet, and anyone I know of who makes their current home in Alberta, is FINE with emissions reduction. I don't know any Albertan who is not interested in protecting the environment - and believe me, we all know Ontarians who are less-so. Alberta is not the bad guy here - so long as reductions targets are applied equally, Albertans that I know are all happy. All they're worried about is unfair targeting - if we make it fair, they'll continue to be as good to us as they have been.

    Well, I can really ramble...

    FWIW, I have never been able to grasp how Kyoto is supposed to work, and I currently do not believe it will work. We have lots of technology available TODAY, right *now*, that could radically reduce smog, pollution, AND greenhouse gases. Future technology will almost certainly be even better, obviously, but much of the future exists now.

    Thanks fer making me blush, Bart.

    Good discussion everyone (except the "so long Alberta" part).

    By Blogger Jacques Beau Vert, at 5:33 p.m.  

  • Hi everyone:

    Regarding technology, I believe that EVERYONE should watch Who Killed The Electric Car (link goes to trailer).

    There ARE answers that can help us - even if you don't believe in Global Warming, we all believe in smog and pollution. No self-respecting capitalist can condone the holding back of superior technology that is more affordable and more attractive to consumers. The EV-1's story is compelling and important.

    Here is the documentary's director on the Daily Show, if you are interested.

    Cars are just one factor, but they are a big one, and this can show you that we don't need to wait til 2050 for technology.

    There are answers in existence, they are just not all available.


    By Blogger Jacques Beau Vert, at 6:17 p.m.  

  • Bigctylib - To be frank, I do not believe that "slapping a few bucks" on a barrel of oil will make the oilsands carbon neutral. Mining the oil sands is an energy intensive opperation, and those who say they have a quick fix for a few bucks either don't know what they're talking about, or aren't telling the whole truth. Just think about what's involved, and whether you actually think the government are the best people to co-ordinate this effort, via taxes, considering their track record in the past.

    Rather than reduce carbon output or raise large taxes on oil we should think outside the box nd develop ways to dump carbon or transform it so it does not enter the atmosphere. The UK is testing a plan that would dump carbon emissons from coal plants under the North Sea, at a cost of 40 million pounds. We can plant more trees and take meaningful action to encourage rainforest protection (the rainforest is the largest carbon sinks in the world).

    The point is that we should be thinking of long-term solutions that allow us to maintain our way of life, without new taxes. Technology, developed and marketed by private enterprise is the most sensible way to move forward.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 6:43 p.m.  

  • Technology, developed and marketed by private enterprise is the most sensible way to move forward.

    I agree, but there's a problem in getting the technology. Not to sound like a broken record, but - Who Killed The Electric Car? tells a fascinating story.

    California's air quality would be a source of envy and admiration today if things had gone differently.

    By Blogger Jacques Beau Vert, at 7:00 p.m.  

  • Andrew,

    What you are referring to is carbon capture and sequestration. The same can be done in Alberta.

    Take your 40 million pound investment, amortize it over its useful life (say 30 yrs), calculate an operating cost, and then figure out the cost per tonne of CO2 prorated from the coal plants.

    I bet you it's close to the equivalent of a few bucks a barrel to do the same for the oilsands.

    By Blogger The Anonymous Green, at 7:00 p.m.  

  • I'd never heard of carbon sequestration (not sure I can even spell it right) til just this year - it's a mind-blowing tool that I don't know half of what you seem to have forgotten about it. (If that's confusing, it was supposed to be a compliment)

    I know very little of the cost - interesting rundown, man.

    By Blogger Jacques Beau Vert, at 7:08 p.m.  

  • "What you are referring to is carbon capture and sequestration. The same can be done in Alberta."

    Isn't his already done with some oil production in Sask? I'm sure Geoffrey Simpson wrote about it being done by one company in Alberta in the article he did about oil sands production in the Globe. Considering that the auditor-general said the Liberals wasted about 3 billion dollars in her report on the environment, we have to wonder how much carbon could have been captured using those funds to pump it back underground.

    By Blogger nuna d. above, at 7:42 p.m.  

  • What's the carbon sequestration downside? Cost? Long term problems? Uncertain science?

    I just assume that there must be some problem with it since it rarely gets mentioned as a solution to the problem (at least in politics/mainstream media).

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 7:52 p.m.  

  • Yes Nuna, - correct.

    I beleive they import C02 via pipeline from the U.S.

    In this instance, CO2 is used as a solvent to recover more oil (it makes the oil "thinner" and easier to produce) - so there is an economic benefit.

    There are companies in Alberta that want to do this as well - dispose of CO2 in old reservoirs or formations, and also use it to recover more oil from producing fields.

    So, if the Alberta/Feds were to push this option - all of the economic investment could remain in the province - building pipelines and facilities to capture and inject the CO2.

    It just requires some political leadership.

    By Blogger The Anonymous Green, at 7:53 p.m.  

  • Jeffrey Simpson wrote recently in the G&M :

    "Big changes in consumption patterns are needed, agreed. But these large emitters of carbon, especially the oil, gas and coal industries, need to make much larger contributions.

    The key is to capture carbon before it enters the atmosphere. Various pilot projects are already doing this. Research is intensifying.

    Alberta Energy Minister Guy Boutilier, who happens to be the provincial MLA for Fort McMurray, is keen on a carbon pipeline from northern to southern Alberta.

    Such a pipeline would allow carbon to be used for enhanced oil recovery in abandoned wells. Carbon would therefore have a price. It could be bought because its use would produce oil that, in turn, would produce profits. A virtuous free market circle.

    Alas, a carbon pipeline alone won't take all the carbon generated by the oil sands and existing oil and gas production. Somehow, the remaining carbon has to be buried, or sequestered, in the ground. Technology exists to do this now, but better technology is likely needed.

    As the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy said in a recent report outlining how to reduce carbon emissions by 60 per cent by 2050: "The development and use of this [carbon capture and sequestration] and other emissions-reducing technology is possibly the single greatest issue determining whether or not Canada can significantly reduce greenhouse-gas emissions." If industry takes its own time about becoming carbon-neutral, it likely won't happen. That's why governments are likely to have to impose medium-term standards such as requiring all existing and new oil-sands operations to be carbon-neutral by 2020, or maybe 2025.

    By Blogger The Anonymous Green, at 8:00 p.m.  

  • Yep, turns out the sun causes it. On Mars AND on Earth.

    Point being...?

    Like I said above - if it's real and it proves non-anthropogenic, we still have to wrestle with it. Just because it could (easily) turn out to be natural doesn't let us off the hook for important decisions in the future.

    By Blogger Jacques Beau Vert, at 9:21 p.m.  

  • Well, there you go. A story in today's Calgary Herald:

    Carbon capture may halve emissions

    By Blogger The Anonymous Green, at 11:05 a.m.  

  • I thought Pembina in the past was using $3-$5/barrel, could be wrong, but maybe now they are being much more conservative on their forecasts, or perhaps this is in 2020 dollars when oil will sell for, well, who knows.

    By Blogger The Anonymous Green, at 11:13 a.m.  

  • Carbon sequestration is still being studied, as it is a very new method of CO2 reduction.

    There are still many, many, unanswered questions and the scientific community is still years away from actually being able to reach a consensus on the whole thing.

    Therefore, it is a bit premature and fool-hardy for any politician to jump on its bandwagon at this time, but since when did politicians listen to us scientists?

    If you want more info, real info, I suggest hoping on any of the academic journal article search engines, web of science is my favourite.....

    By Blogger Saskatoon Dipper, at 11:23 a.m.  

  • fred; But Mars didn't sign the Kyoto accord. It's no wonder they have global warming...

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 1:16 p.m.  

  • From today's National Post

    "a new study by PricewaterhouseCoopers has concluded that Alberta's oilsands could play a key role in saving the planet from the devastating effects of climate change.

    The consulting firm suggests Canada and other G-7 countries must take the lead to tackle global warming through various strategies to improve energy efficiency, increase use of renewable fuels and developing carbon capture and storage technology.

    Under a "Green Growth Plus" plan, the firm estimates a 17 per cent reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions, thanks in part to geological formations in Western Canada that are suitable for storing carbon underground.

    "I think what's surprising about (the report) is the emphasis that carbon capture and storage has on the best scenario case and how Western Canada can actually help with climate change through carbon capture and storage," said Christine Schuh, Canadian climate change leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers."

    Maybe instead of sending billions to foreign countries to purchase "credits", Canada should be looking at this.

    By Blogger nuna d. above, at 1:31 p.m.  

  • This week's Economist, as per Andrew's initial comments :

    King Coal redux

    "In a warming world, dirtiness remains coal's biggest drawback. A standard coal plant produces around three times as much carbon as a gas station. Coal fans hope that new technologies—such as “washing” away impurities that boost carbon emissions—can clean it up. The ultimate prize is carbon capture and storage, which removes carbon dioxide from the exhaust gases and stores it for disposal in depleted oil and gas fields. That would solve the emissions problem at a stroke, but it could more than double the cost of coal generation."

    By Blogger The Anonymous Green, at 2:11 p.m.  

  • The plan has been leaked apparently.

    Here is the link

    By Blogger Down & Out in L A, at 4:14 p.m.  

  • 2 things: mitigation is easier and cheaper than avoidance. We can't intentionally change the climate (it takes REALLY LARGE effort to do that) so we should be focusing on investments to reduce possible damage, rather than reduce or stop change.

    The second point: CO2 isn't a dangerous element you leftist idiots! Saying "my lungs, my lungs" wrt carbon emissions is the dumbest thing since Marx started writing Das Kapital! In fact, the CPC plan is more focused on actually noxious substances such as SO2!

    I really, really hate when liberal arts grads try to discuss science issues. You can barely multiply but think that you can manipulate statistics and climate models! Uh... no.

    Bart, nice cheap shot. There have, at one point or another, been several non-evangelicals in the party. Nice to see that Warren Kinsella's legacy of bigotry lives on. Thank god no one in the Liberal Party of Canada ever goes to church! Goddamn xians!

    By Blogger Hey, at 5:13 p.m.  

  • I guess since I did post some numbers or statistics, some of the previous comment was addressed at me.

    Talk about finding a needle in a Hey stack.

    Ask any pipeline engineer what the most corrosive elements to consider in a gas analysis, when determining the metallurgy of the pipeline- H2S (I'd recommend googling if you don't know what this is)and CO2- especially in the presence of water.

    I guess they didn't print that on the package of the Corn Flakes box where you got your non-liberal arts degree.

    (and by the way- see what high concentrations of CO2 in water do to shellfish your next excursion to Red Lobster - if your parents still take you)

    By Blogger The Anonymous Green, at 6:25 p.m.  

  • Me, I'm no scientist (or liberal arts grad), but I'm always interested in hearing stuff to educate myself. Hey's post didn't really do that.

    By Blogger Jacques Beau Vert, at 7:37 p.m.  

  • Hey's post is simply "you don't understand, so you should defer to the experts"... which, in the next post, he'll probably conveniently supply, forgetting to mention that the "scientists" in question are flacks.

    Meanwhile, CO2 is most certainly harmful to climate equilibrium, which is the point that real scientists have been making for ages. The pseudo-scientists are those like Hey who bring out nonsensical twaddle to distract from the real problems.

    By Blogger Demosthenes, at 2:19 a.m.  

  • I've seen a few newscasts and heard on 640am that a few enviro experts say the tories plan is almost identical to the libs.

    In fact the liberal plan was in fact based on intensity based caps,the same ones they critcize Harper and Ambrose using.

    Its also a bit of a joke cbc and ctv have this guy on from the sierra club slamming the new plan over and over,then at the end saying he is not sure if in fact the plan he has in his hand is the real one,and that there are probably changes he has not seen.

    By Blogger paulsstuff, at 1:07 p.m.  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger The Anonymous Green, at 7:16 p.m.  

  • It's Thursday, October 19th and the tories have just tabled their GREEN AIR ACT in the house.

    Here's the link

    By Blogger Down & Out in L A, at 1:29 p.m.  

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