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Power China Transportation

Electric Buses Are Hurting the Oil Industry (bloomberg.com) 303

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Electric buses were seen as a joke at an industry conference in Belgium seven years ago when the Chinese manufacturer BYD showed an early model. Suddenly, buses with battery-powered motors are a serious matter with the potential to revolutionize city transport -- and add to the forces reshaping the energy industry. With China leading the way, making the traditional smog-belching diesel behemoth run on electricity is starting to eat away at fossil fuel demand. The numbers are staggering. China had about 99 percent of the 385,000 electric buses on the roads worldwide in 2017, accounting for 17 percent of the country's entire fleet. Every five weeks, Chinese cities add 9,500 of the zero-emissions transporters -- the equivalent of London's entire working fleet, according Bloomberg New Energy Finance. All this is starting to make an observable reduction in fuel demand. And because they consume 30 times more fuel than average sized cars, their impact on energy use so far has become much greater than the than the passenger sedans produced companies from Tesla to Toyota. For every 1,000 battery-powered buses on the road, about 500 barrels a day of diesel fuel will be displaced from the market, according to BNEF calculations. This year, the volume of fuel buses take off the market may rise 37 percent to 279,000 barrels a day, about as much oil as Greece consumes, according to BNEF.
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Electric Buses Are Hurting the Oil Industry

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  • by nicolaiplum ( 169077 ) on Tuesday April 24, 2018 @07:22PM (#56497413)

    Those electric buses are not yet zero emission in China - where most of the electricity is generated by coal.

    They can be zero emission, when solar- or hydro-powered.

    Diesel buses will never be zero emission.

    But after you have the electric bus, you must close the coal mine, turn off the gas pipeline, and shut down the thermal power plant. Otherwise you just moved the emissions around a little.

    • by spun ( 1352 ) <loverevolutionar ... m ['oo.' in gap]> on Tuesday April 24, 2018 @07:28PM (#56497439) Journal

      One big scrubber on one chimney is much easier and cheaper than a million such scrubbers on car exhaust pipes. Also, China currently has twice the kilowatts of renewable energy as the US does. They are the world leader in green energy, a place that could have, and should have been ours. But we're a corporate kleptocracy and have a vested interest in denying the need for green power.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 24, 2018 @09:03PM (#56497783)

        Also, China currently has twice the kilowatts of renewable energy as the US does

        China is building nuclear power plants as fast as it could, and it is adding wind turbines and solar panels in more and more places, and is upgrading its national electricity grid at a furious pace

        China adopts the 'green' - ideology not because it likes to be green, but because it is forced to, for its own survival

        China knows that it can't and must not rely on fossil fuel too heavily, as over 90% of the fossil fuel it uses it imports from abroad --- with most of those oil / LNG tanker vessels passing through the Strait of Malacca (from the Middle East) which can easily become a military choking point if any crisis happens

        • by tsa ( 15680 ) on Wednesday April 25, 2018 @12:48AM (#56498297) Homepage

          Just not being dependent on someone else for energy has so many plusses it's even worth it if it costs more. And with green energy you get a much better environment as an extra! It really has almost only plusses.

        • by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Wednesday April 25, 2018 @04:02AM (#56498669)

          The motivation does actually not matter much. They are doing it and they are gaining a lot of insight and experience doing it. Experience and insight that others lack. Just look at examples like Germany, which apparently cannot build Airports anymore, or the US that has trouble keeping its electrical grid functioning. That is extreme loss of former capabilities right there. In large scale engineering (just like in any engineering really), you need to keep doing it to be able to keep doing it. Much of the West seems to have forgotten that.

          • Just look at examples like Germany, which apparently cannot build Airports anymore, or the US that has trouble keeping its electrical grid functioning.

            It's not for lack of ability, it's due to corruption. If we get into another war that actually threatens us you'll see things turn around quickly as we prioritize getting things done over profit, for a time.

          • The motivation does actually not matter much. They are doing it and they are gaining a lot of insight and experience doing it. Experience and insight that others lack. Just look at examples like Germany, which apparently cannot build Airports anymore, or the US that has trouble keeping its electrical grid functioning. That is extreme loss of former capabilities right there. In large scale engineering (just like in any engineering really), you need to keep doing it to be able to keep doing it. Much of the West seems to have forgotten that.

            Some of it is clearly loss of capacity and knowledge as older workers who have the experience leave the work force or the industrial facilities needed to do major projects close for lack of demand and thus if there is demand later there isn't the plants to satisfy it.

            In other cases, so as the grid, it's not so much a loss of eperience and insight but a lack of investment in upgrading it and the fragmented structure of the grid. The US grid isn't one nicely interconnected where electricity can be easily tran

      • by quanminoan ( 812306 ) on Tuesday April 24, 2018 @10:47PM (#56498063)

        Not to mention those large plants are much more efficient than a combustion engine, with optimized steam turbines squeezing out the highest efficiency. The "oh but everything comes from coal anyway" is a terrible argument even if it were true.

      • We will be at peak oil due to Electric Vehicles ? News at 11.
        Now, wait for electric cars, you'll see what happens in 3-4 Years to oil.

      • by gweihir ( 88907 )

        Indeed, and not only for tech reasons, but also because it is one decision and one installation, not millions of them.

        As to the US, even more so than the rest of the West, it is in a phase of stagnation, of the rich and powerful trying to preserve what they have. That blocks changes like nothing else does. It is extreme irony that of all countries China is a forerunner that actually innovates large-scale in this area. And while their country is much larger (albeit much of it not industrialized), they are ga

      • Also, China currently has twice the kilowatts of renewable energy as the US does.

        Okay, but they have more than three times as many people as we do, so that means that they're behind us per capita.

        They are the world leader in green energy, a place that could have, and should have been ours.

        Sounds like it IS ours, by the numbers you've provided.

    • by Marco Alvarado ( 4089331 ) on Tuesday April 24, 2018 @07:34PM (#56497457)
      There is an important detail. Even if the electricity it is being produced with coal or petroleum, an electricity power plant can be optimized and the method to produce the energy can be closely monitored. However, it is impossible to guarantee that half million diesel buses are working correctly and the individual method to use the energy in each independent combustion engine it is extremely ineficient. Then, it is an improvement. Also, it is easier, as other reader described, to replace the coal plants than to run around looking for all these thousands of diesel machines.
    • by benjfowler ( 239527 ) on Tuesday April 24, 2018 @07:42PM (#56497511)

      The 'long tailpipe' thesis has been debunked for years.

      • And even if it hasn't, having a tail pipe out of population centers is a net win for health, even if it were a net loss for the environment ... Which is not.

        • by nicolaiplum ( 169077 ) on Wednesday April 25, 2018 @03:10AM (#56498559)

          It doesn't work out like that in China. Factory and powerplant emissions in Beijing city are quite low, many factories got moved out of the city for the 2008 Olympics and most of the road vehicles are fairly new (typically they meet an equivalent of Euro 4 vehicle emission standards or better).
          All the dirty factories in the surrounding province of Hebei now produce so much pollution that Beijing has among the worst air quality in the world in winter, even if the pollution sources are not nearby. From a tall building (there are many in Beijing) can see a chance in wind direction bring in the grey mist of fine particles that smell burnt and irritate your lungs.
          Just moving the pollution out of town doesn't help you when there's a lot of pollution.

          • by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Wednesday April 25, 2018 @04:07AM (#56498685)

            Generalising "factories" is disingenius. You're right the vast problem is factories. However the long tail pipe is not a nearby factory, it's a distributed power network across the country.

            By the way before you say it doesn't work like that you should consider that it's not only the factories that are incredibly sub par in China, the shitty old diesel busses are too (a typical replacement program isn't throwing out new Euro 4 busses). Don't underestimate just how much of a difference it makes getting these old belchers out of the city.

            For all the problems that were still there after 2008 note that the air quality in China has steaily been improving over the past 5 years.

    • Luckily China is investing in nuclear fission plants (~25 in the next decade) and pumping lots of money in fusion research.

      They know what they need to do and they are driving their economy by building it.

    • If I had the points, I'd mod you as informative. Ya, the power is currently generated by coal, but not diesel. That's the beginning. When the power is generated by renewables, then things will be pretty fair, for buses.
    • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Tuesday April 24, 2018 @09:34PM (#56497857) Homepage Journal

      China's coal consumption peaked three years ago; in 2014 the percent of electricity generated by coal was 78%; in 2017 it was only 66%. As in the US, the decline in coal has been from an aggressive push in to natural gas. Natural gas is not emissions free, but it is much cleaner than either coal electricity generation or diesel vehicle engines.

      China is also planning on bringing on a lot more wind power in the coming decades.

    • by idji ( 984038 )
      Even with the worst quality coal, generation of electricity for cars/buses is less polluting than "good" diesel. And you open the possibilities of sourcing the electricity from many other clean sources. Even if the pollution were the same, it is not at street level where millions are breathing it directly. In the end, human health will drive what is happening, not just energy politics.
    • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

      A consistent lie. For a start, you asshats, you move the emissions from cities, where millions of people live, to remote regional centres where no one needs to live with in 10km of the power plant but then fuck people their are just overly expensive consumables. Next up power plants are considerable more efficient than an infernal combustion engine, no comparison at all but fuck efficiency, right, where the fuck is the profit in that. Who the hell modded that oft repeated stupidity up.

    • Your âcalculationsâ(TM) fail to take into account the amount of electricity needed to convert crude oil into gasoline. It is nearly enough to power an electric car, even after considering the refining by products.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Clean coal burning bus engines are the future. Bring back jobs to the Pennsylvania coal minors and make bussing great again.

    • by The Grim Reefer ( 1162755 ) on Tuesday April 24, 2018 @08:41PM (#56497699)

      Bring back jobs to the Pennsylvania coal minors

      No kidding. Those little bastards always want the newest iPhone. I say we should eliminate the child labor laws and make them work in the mines to earn the money for those $800 phones. It's obvious that that's where they want to be anyhow. Just look at how popular Minecraft was. If we tell them that it's "double super ultra HD 8K+" resolution, and we throw a couple of rabid dogs dressed as zombies in the mix they'll be lining up to "play" in the mines.

  • Why battery powered? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Strider- ( 39683 ) on Tuesday April 24, 2018 @07:33PM (#56497453)

    Vancouver, BC has a fairly large electric bus system, and has had it for over 50 years. The trollybus system covers most arterial routes, and while the buses are primarily powered off the overhead wires, they can go for short distances (under 1km IIRC) on internal batteries. The latter capacity is primarily used to get around detours or accidents.

    With one of these systems, your buses are as clean as your power supply, and you don't need to muck around with expensive/polluting batteries to the same degree.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The advantage of a battery-powered bus is that it can drive anywhere a diesel bus can. If you have to install overhead wires, you might as well also build rails and use trams instead of buses.

    • by Hartree ( 191324 )

      Exactly. Catenary wires or other 3rd rail systems are a fantastic idea that has been in use for over a century.

      Now, if we could just get our long distance highways refit to allow battery or hybrid semi-trucks to do this.

      • by ColaMan ( 37550 ) on Tuesday April 24, 2018 @08:02PM (#56497583) Journal

        Overhead wires are prohibitively expensive over long distances. For example if you use rail electrification costs as a benchmark, it works out to be about a million dollars per mile to install, and then there's ongoing maintenance of the catenary cable which does wear out from all that rubbing.

        Apart from the poles and cabling above the road, there's also transformers, substations and etc that need to be spread along the route. In a city that's not really a problem, but long distance it starts to get difficult.

    • Wires are ugly.

    • If you had the battery tech now available when they put the trolly buses in... You wouldn't have trolley buses. It addressed a technological limitation of the day.

  • by VeryFluffyBunny ( 5037285 ) on Tuesday April 24, 2018 @07:36PM (#56497473)

    ...is to create a comprehensive network of electrically powered public transport infrastructure. Spain is already the country with the highest per capita number of high-speed rail Km's in the world, and most EU countries now have extensive electric rail networks. Diesel public transport, by comparison, is slow, heavy, unreliable, and expensive but even that's cheaper and cleaner than individuals driving themselves to work each day.

    American-style suburbia, with its heavy reliance on individuals driving themselves to work, is one of the most inefficient and polluting urban planning models devised in recent history. It's also an obscene waste of people's time when they have to sit idling in traffic jams every day.

    On the other hand, China is by far the most aggressive investor in renewable energy. India isn't dragging its feet either. The USA is getting left behind and falling even further behind with its current stable genius in the Whitehouse. Without a sensible, well-informed, coherent energy policy, guess who's heading for a 2nd world economy pretty soon?

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      That policy saw parts of the EU get new train, bus, rail, tram and airports. Great for contractors and jobs building the EU projects.
      Then the local government and national governments has to rent the support services to keep all that new "electrically powered public transport infrastructure" working.
      Supporting a new train to a new airport that connects to a new bus service. With another older regional airport in the same area getting new services.
      Thats the win, in selling the EU in electrically powered
    • LOL.
      America is switching to EVs at a rather quick pace. Right now, we have been behind Europe, but that is changing quickly due to Model 3. Then add to that, the coming electric semi-tractors which will make a HUGE impact on America's emissions.

      Finally, CHina is NOT only the most aggressive investor in renewable energy, but also the most aggressive investor in coal plants. In fact, they are building over 700 over the next couple of years.
      This lead to China having a 5% CO2 emission rise for 2017. [climatechangenews.com] China [nytimes.com]
    • by tsa ( 15680 )

      The Netherlands.

  • So the take home is don't convert a bus into a camper if you don't want to spend all your money on gas.
  • by Eloking ( 877834 ) on Tuesday April 24, 2018 @07:53PM (#56497553)

    I must admit, while I was reading the headline I was quite sure it was clickbait materia. "Yeah right, no way in hell a few electric buses will hurt the oil industry" I told myself.

    Well, look like I was wrong. I was very surprised to learn that China had 99% of the world electric bus but, when you think about it, it's not that surprising. They put the axe on many coal plants mega development because of the abysmal level of pollution in their cities so I can understand why they are the world leader on this. That "279 000 less barrel per day in the next year" is an impressive number.

    Now, I wonder how it really "hurt" the oil industry. Does that 37% rise is to replace older gasoline type? How much is 279 000 compared to the world production? Probably less than 1% so I'm not sure "hurting" is appropriate. Maybe "make a dent on"?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 24, 2018 @08:38PM (#56497687)

      96 million/day

      so about a third of a percent.

      but if it's an accelerating trend (7 years to 1/3 percent, 8 years to .4 percent), and it's not a proven tech, so it may spread to other countries, I bet they're watching it with some nervousness.

      If it can handle buses, local delivery is next (Tesla truck for example).

      growth 2016-2017 was .7%, so this in theory is hitting growth significantly.

      (growth sourced here, daily use 2016 on a google search)
      https://www.eia.gov/beta/international/data/browser/#/?pa=000gfs0000000000000000000000000000vg&c=4100000002000060000000000000g000200000000000000001&tl_id=5-A&vs=INTL.53-1-AFRC-TBPD.A&vo=0&v=H&end=2017

      • by Eloking ( 877834 )

        96 million/day

        so about a third of a percent.

        but if it's an accelerating trend (7 years to 1/3 percent, 8 years to .4 percent), and it's not a proven tech, so it may spread to other countries, I bet they're watching it with some nervousness.

        If it can handle buses, local delivery is next (Tesla truck for example).

        growth 2016-2017 was .7%, so this in theory is hitting growth significantly.

        (growth sourced here, daily use 2016 on a google search)
        https://www.eia.gov/beta/inter... [eia.gov]

        Great point! Would mod you up if I could.

        Given the importance of grow in this century, it is big.

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Depends on the nation the electric bus is exported to and what they upgraded the bus service from.
      Hydro power? Nuclear? Sun? Wind? Coal? Oil?
      Is the existing bus service working on compressed natural gas?
    • Now, I wonder how it really "hurt" the oil industry.

      The industry itself would be largely unaffected. However the industry is very localised. A change this size in a local area could mean anything from refineries becoming unviable, to a required major equipment investment to deal with a different product slate.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      More worrying for oil companies is the trajectory that this demonstrates we are on. Electric busses are much cheaper over their lifetime due to lower fuel and maintenance costs, and it's only a matter of time before most combustion engine vehicles are like that.

  • Bloomberg posts this article today:

    https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2018-04-24/trump-has-it-wrong-when-it-comes-to-oil-and-opec

    So the industry isn't hurting at all, but even China's demand will grow this year. I guess you could say demand would be even higher without the buses, but they're certainly not causing problems.

    • by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Tuesday April 24, 2018 @10:33PM (#56498035) Journal
      Actually that article is off slightly. The fact is, that Russia and OPEC have cut back production, though others esp US have increased. As such, there is a lot less oil on the market than should be at this time of year. IEA has the following report on oil, which is probably a bit more accurate than is Schenker on it (he is less specialized in oil than is IEA). [iea.org]

      Political uncertainty in the Middle East has returned to the fore in recent days. As we write, uncertainty about the next steps in Syria and Yemen have helped propel the price of Brent crude oil back above $70/bbl. It remains to be seen if recently elevated prices are sustained and if so what are the implications for the market demand and supply dynamics. In the meantime, our overall view of global demand and supply growth in 2018 is unchanged from last month. For demand, early in 2018 stronger growth in the US was partially offset by weaker growth in China. India has seen a strong start to the year. Globally, we expect oil demand to grow by 1.5 mb/d in 2018. However, there is an element of risk to this outlook from the current tension on trade tariffs between China and the US, and we look at this issue in the demand section of this Report. For supply, our outlook for non-OPEC growth remains unchanged at 1.8 mb/d. Data for US production show that in January output fell by a modest 24 kb/d, much in line with our forecast with adverse weather playing a part. We retain our view that US crude production in 2018 will increase by 1.3 mb/d versus last year. However, there is concern about bottlenecks in takeaway capacity that have seen recent discounts for WTI Midland versus Houston widen to a record at nearly $9/bbl. This issue applies in Canada as well as in the US.

    • but they're certainly not causing problems

      On a global level this isn't even a blip on the radar, however the industry itself is highly localised with refiners specialised on the local market. They are likely quite hurting as a result of this.

  • Buses seem like a prime application, limited range, slow speed.

    More gas for the rest of us :)

    • by robbak ( 775424 ) on Wednesday April 25, 2018 @12:02AM (#56498209) Homepage

      .. where regenerative braking can put the energy back into the battery. They are also big, so have room for lots of cells. And most cities number their busses for the peak morning and evening rush, so there's plenty of opportunities to schedule each bus off the road for 2 hours to fully charge it.

      But busses are only the start. All the problems with electric vehicles have been solved - we just need to ramp up battery production. All that remains to be seen is if the electric takover will be the major car manufacturers will writing off their investment in the internal combustion engine, or whether a raft of new automotive companies will take over.

      So the rest of use aren't going to want gas much longer.

  • by SlaveToTheGrind ( 546262 ) on Tuesday April 24, 2018 @08:10PM (#56497603)

    Given that world oil production is around 35 billion barrels a year [iea.org], 279,000 barrels isn't even a blip on anyone's radar.

    • It's a half barrel per bus per day. There are 100k busses or so in the US so that's 50k barrels per day from the summary. The us consumes 20 million per day so a back of napkin approximation is 1/400th or 0.25% of us oil consumption. That's probably enough to make a small difference. Add in cars and it could be much more significant. Of course it's only as clean as the power it's fed, but solar and wind have less impact per kWh than fossil fuels by far, even with grid charging.
    • by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Wednesday April 25, 2018 @04:13AM (#56498697)

      In the world yes. However the oil industry is localised. The loss doesn't even show up in the global numbers, but it could be enough to cause a major investment drive or even closures of refining depending on how the local market is affected.

  • School buses stay parked overnight. Enough time to fully recharge. Postal vans too. Garbage trucks can benefit a lot.

    Long distance trucks switching to diesel-electric designs like the locomotives can halve their fuel consumption. All this with existing technology. No new breakthrough needed, just the mass production and economy of scales to kick in.

    Then comes really new technology like the Tesla 18 wheeler truck. Then we are talking serious reduction in diesel demand.

    • by swb ( 14022 )

      When will the cost effective vehicles start showing up?

      I agree with all the benefits, but struggle to understand where the products are. Most mail trucks are damn near glorified golf carts and don't drive far in most urbanized zipcodes. It's not hard to see a design almost literally based off a sightly upsized golf cart (with some kind of micro van type body).

      UPS, FedEx local delivery seem like great candidates, too. These need to be more truck scale, but there's more room for batteries to deal with heav

  • by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Tuesday April 24, 2018 @09:59PM (#56497943) Journal
    There is little doubt that China has moved in a HUGE way to electric buses. And to be fair, it will hopefully make a difference down the road. BUT, the fact is, that China's Coal consumption and CO2 emissions went up last year. Why? Because China replaced burning diesel with burning coal. Keep in mind that China's AE was in use. Where did China get lots of new electricity? From coal.
    However, China's reason for moving to electric has been to quit importing oil. These buses have made a difference. Way to go for CHina.

    Now, with that said, the west needs to move to Electric buses. The reason is that other than Australia and Eastern Europe, the west has less than 40% on coal. For places like Sweden, Canada, UK, etc, it will make a noticeable difference in their CO2.
    It will be interesting to see what happens when Tesla and other truck makers introduce semi-tractors. Over the next couple of years, transportation all around the globe, except for china, is going to see CO2 drop.
    • BUT, the fact is, that China's Coal consumption and CO2 emissions went up last year.

      China's coal consumption changed last year by less than 1% (NEA figure), which is a dramatic departure from the trend of previous year on year increases. While their consumption changed so little they also opened up many new coal plants while closing older ones.

      So while the actual number can be summarised poorly as "OMG MORE COAL" the trend and results are actually quite a net win both for the environment and in terms of CO2 emissions which grew less than 2% despite a quite large increase in primary energy

  • ...that China seems to be taking the lead on new technology. All the more painful knowing that this capitalist country "sold the rope" (manufacturing technology and all that flows from that, though we Americans are very great at being "fast forgetters") that the Communist dictatorship is using to so cleverly hang us and elevate them. Sigh....
    • Re:So Sad(TM)... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by hey! ( 33014 ) on Wednesday April 25, 2018 @02:13AM (#56498461) Homepage Journal

      China is 20% of the world's population. Even if they punch way below their weight, in a serious bid for technological leadership sheer size.

      Consider Liechtenstein. It may be a terrific place to live -- in fact it's got the world's highest per capita income $139,100. But with just 39,000 inhabitants, it's never going to be a world power at anything.

      Now the United States is the third most populous country in the world. Our world-leading higher education system means we punch way above our weight. But realistically we're only 5% of the world's population. To put that in perspective, India, the second most populous country, may have a huge poverty problem, but its middle class (267 million) is larger than the US middle class (121 million). Within the next decade, the size of the Chinese middle class is expected to outstrip the size of the entire US population.

      So the only way we're not going to lose ground to China on technological leadership is if China screws up badly. Or we make a really concerted effort to step up our game. Possibly both would be needed. The thing is, I don't think Americans realize this; we think of tech leadership as a birthright. People would be amazed to realize that other countries have better Internet, better phone, and better health care than we do.

  • by skovnymfe ( 1671822 ) on Wednesday April 25, 2018 @05:03AM (#56498801)
    Why does the headline attempt to garner sympathy for a bunch of psychopaths hell-bent on destroying our habitat? Fuck the Oil Industry. Let them burn.
  • Early bird gets the worm or second mouse gets the cheese. Depends on situation whether being first or second better. Perhaps the West will get a chance to leap frog China refining their development learning curve like the Japanese, Korean and Chinese did in electronics and autos did at first then some became better (e.g. Toyota, Samsung). While fuel inexpensive and production optimized for petrol vehicles the West harder to justify the conversion while tech still relatively expensive. The West especially
  • by nospam007 ( 722110 ) * on Wednesday April 25, 2018 @11:02AM (#56500043)

    I have a bus-stop in front of my house (traffic begins at 4:30 am) and since my city uses e-Buses from the beginning of this year, I can finally sleep without plugs.

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