Green Energy: Don’t Stick Granny with the Bill

From Climate Etc.

by Planning Engineer (Russell Schussler)

Renewable energy has an equity problem.  Energy policies that force consumers to incur huge costs to meet larger public aims become a hidden form of taxation.  Energy bills eat up much larger proportions of income for those at the lower end of the economic scale.

When electric utilities or electric rates are used to accomplish any public good, any cost increase falls disproportionately upon those with lesser incomes and resources.  Power costs tend to function as a highly regressive tax, putting the burden on those who struggle the most and having the least impact on the wealthy. As a practicing engineer I often worried what impact our projects would have on the less fortunate.  Now I fear that poor struggling grandmothers will end up paying for the “green” dreams of the financially well off.

When I look at the envisioned green transition, I worry about exorbitant costs less than I used to.  I’m not sure anymore what I have a sufficient understanding around the abilities of nations to incur huge amounts of costs and debt for the “public good”.  It’s beyond my comprehension at times.  I see so many billions spent on things that seem less consequential than the grid. So sometimes I think, why not spend that kind of big money on various assorted energy projects.  Maybe we can dump huge sums of public money into longshot projects and hope for the best.  But I can’t help wondering who will eventually pay for it, and hoping that poor and least able among us do not end up financing ill-considered pursuits.

This previous post summarizes what I thought I knew:

The price of energy has tremendous direct and indirect costs on society. Energy costs make up more than one-fifth of the after-tax income of America’s lowest income quintile. Higher energy costs for agriculture and manufacturing production are passed on to consumers in higher prices for products, thus lowering overall the standard of living. To the extent that energy costs are high in a region, the less economically competitive that region will be with likely correspondingly lower wages and higher unemployment.

Affordable energy provides greater comfort, health and safety while allowing machinery to improve lives and reduce drudgery. Higher energy costs limit these benefits to smaller segments of the population. Affordable energy is associated with high standards of living, improved health and better environmental protection.

But if somebody else can pay for it, maybe I’m not so concerned about the costs.  For this posting, I will refrain from noting the harm “green” efforts cause irrespective of their costs and instead focus on who should pay for “green” benefits that some see as potentially attainable, whether or not such benefits ever materialize.

What I was taught

Coming up in the utility industry I was quickly disabused of any notions I might have had, that my college dreams would drive what was built as part of the power system.  I wasn’t building a system for me. I was told that before making any costly decision I should think about how it might impact an elderly lady just getting buy on her pension. Sometimes the admonition was made in terms of a struggling farmer in the field. We played an important role in the lives of our consumers and their wants and needs played a central role in our decision making.  The bulk of our consumers were not people buying fancy car or living lavish lifestyles. They needed a good practical power system, not something out of an engineer’s daydream.

Now don’t confuse this admonition with being cheap or focusing solely on cost.  I learned if fancy works well and is also economic, that’s a great thing.  But not fancy for fancy’s sake.  Every decision must consider both near and long-term needs.  Every decision must balance cost, reliability and public responsibility in order to benefit every user of the grid. Decisions had to support the local economies and businesses and improve the quality of life for all.  I will note our concerns were often more focused on more on local considerations and less on global, than many might like today. But we were extremely serious about all environmental requirements and minimizing overall environmental impacts.  I feel privileged to have been part of expanding an effective, reliable, publicly responsible grid. It is better and more wonderful than what a college kids dream’s might have been.  I am at proud of my work, largely because at each step I asked myself, “What is the best thing we can do for Granny, or that farmer in the field?”

Some things I did

I don’t want anyone to get the idea that worrying about Granny served to impede the development of the grid or make planning boring.  For years I worked to ensure cheap excess hydro from the Pacific northwest could flow over a state-of-the-art HVDC (High Voltage Direct Current) tie to Los Angeles to displace fossil fuel generation in the LA basin.  This was part of a big hi-tech win-win project.  That decision was made before my time, but it was a good one for many grannies.  Later I participated in many decisions regarding the use hi-tech power electronics or other technological innovations.  Many opportunities were deferred because they did not make sense for a practical grid, but eventually other major big ones were judged worthwhile.  The point being you don’t just do things to do things, you do things when and where they make sense.

I won’t say that all decisions made everywhere I worked were good or adequately considered Granny.  The pull of the new, of being first, or being considered a smart innovator is strong.  A predecessor of mine had pushed through an energy storage generation project bolstered by some questionable assumptions.  It qualified for millions in research funding.  It was completed just before I took over planning.  It worked ok, but had a number of problems initially.   For just what we spent on the project, it would have been much better our consumers if we had installed conventional gas combustion turbines instead. Good engineering ignores sunk costs, so we used it as efficiently and effectively as possible. It was exciting to showcase a new technology.  It was great to have developed a specialized expertise.  But more attention should have been paid initially as to what that project might do for Granny.

Later in the 1990’s in Alabama we had an old coal plant that needed to be retired and that coupled with the expiration of some power contracts meant we needed a major generation addition.  We did numerous detailed scenarios which built a big wall of computer printouts, looking at all relevant factors out over thirty years to see what was in our consumers best interests.  Most not involved with the extensive studies thought the best plan would be a new coal plant as our current ones were performing well.  While the future operating costs of a coal plants were projected to be low (in reality it would not have worked out that way) the initial costs of building the plant infrastructure were too high and the future too uncertain.  We looked at many options including an innovative biomass switch grass burning facility.  The study work showed that the best alternative was to put two new combustion turbines adjacent to the old coal plant.  The waste heat from the new combustion turbines was used to heat steam to power the old coal turbines.  It functioned as an efficient and clean gas combined cycle plant. For the first couple years, some were upset we had not gone with coal, but this choice was been shown to be a sound one across the ensuing years.

It’s hard to plan for the future, things keep changing.  There can be so much potential variation in costs, needs, regulations and various other critical factors.  But one thing we had going for us was that we understood who was being served and what the important things were that we were trying to do.  Meeting regulations was a requirement, not our end goal. When regulations are overly focused too narrowly, many things outside the regulated concerns can go wrong.

Utilities have less and less decision-making power over time

Over my career, our ability to make decisions impacting the general good of our consumers became more and more constrained.  In the generation area, oversight became stronger as options and alternatives became more constrained.  More and more utilities were required to conduct RFPs (request for proposals) and consider outside bids.  Rather than making a decision it was more like running a process and picking a winner.

On the transmission side we would set charges for power producers who wanted to connect to our grid.  If parts of the grid had to be upgraded to handle their addition, we would charge them for those improvements along with interconnection costs of hooking them up.  Also, since they would be using our existing network, we would also charge them a share of the costs of existing system which they would be using. The Federal Energy Commission (FERC) was very concerned about granting independent power producers (IPPs) the right to use any grid they wanted.  FERC required us to interconnect with IPPs and allowed us to charge at most the greater of incremental costs or a cost based on our average system costs, but not both. Perhaps that was needed to better spur competition and openness and make it easier on newcomers.  One consequence was that when a new load had high interconnection cost nobody was compensating Granny for what she had put into the system over the years.

Regulation is always done with the intent to make the utilities more responsive to the public good as or for the good of consumers. Rules and regulations, however, constrain options and choices. Specific measures may increase focus on a narrow band of the public good, but cause havoc for many broader concerns around the public good.  With all the policies around “green energy” and the push to reduce CO2 emissions, it looks like nobody is worrying broadly about more general measures of the public good and specifically about Granny and many other consumers like her.

Granny and Green Energy

A green transition of the entire electric grid, is a project of scope and intensity sufficiently bold and majestic to stir the heart of any recent college graduate.  Lots of great, exciting, challenging work for such noble sounding purposes.  If it’s going to save the planet, who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?  What costs should be spared to prevent the oceans from boiling?  Looking at all the rules, regulations and subsidies which are pushing the “green” agenda, apparently not a lot of costs are being spared.  I worry what efforts to quickly transform the grid might do to reliability, but it seems we may be powerless to slow the trend down. If I can’t slow this process, I would at least like to speak up for Granny.

The green transition is primarily driven by concerns over CO2 emissions and the existential crises of climate change.  I am not seeking here to amplify nor quell the concerns around CO2.  The points I will raise here becomes more important the greater the challenges faced in reducing CO2.  I am asking everyone who views the reduction of CO2 as critically important, to thoughtfully consider who should pay for the needed reductions.

There is no getting around it, we all exhale, use energy and resources and contribute C02 into the shared environment.  Individuals due to both their choices and situations have widely varying individual C02 impacts.  Increasing wealth can in some ways work to reduce carbon footprints, as it enables people to make better choices, be more efficient and employ better technology.  On the other hand, increased wealth leads to higher footprints when individuals fly more, particularly in private jets, command greater resources and enjoy other carbon intensive activities. Those less well-off may have simpler needs that might tend to lower their carbon footprints. On the other hand their situation may make them engage in higher carbon emitting activities due to cost considerations.  For example, it may be cheaper to burn material than use cleaner electric power.  Accessing, judging and evaluating CO2 footprints is complicated.

So now, let’s consider Granny who is living her life and scraping by on a fixed pension.  Her life style is simple.  She’s not eating a lot.  She’s not buying much.  She’s not traveling far.  She’s living a simple life, but she likes her home cool in the summer and warm in the winter, even if she wears a sweater to keep her power bills down.  Without todays’ trends she would able to buy electricity produced mostly by natural gas.  Her bills would be low and her carbon footprint would still be small compared to most in this country.  But today in most cases she has to subsidize solar panels on the homes of wealthier consumers.  She has to help pay for green innovation that is not helping today and which may or may not have benefits in the future.  The sector of the energy industry she uses, residential electricity, has a high carbon tax burden while other sectors are less burdened.  We are asking a lot from her.

Energy policies that force consumers to incur huge costs to meet larger public aims become a hidden form of taxation.  When energy cost is used as a tax, it is one of the most regressive taxes available, far worse than a flat tax would be.  Energy bills eat up multiple times larger proportions of income for those at the lower end of the economic scale.  Overtaxing the poor is not a good way to achieve public good.  We should not hide public taxes in utility bills.  Let’s not hold Granny accountable for her small contribution to CO2, while wealthy individuals with so many more choice options can drive cigar boats, build mansions, consume goods and travel the world shouldering so much less responsibility per unit for the CO2 they cause to be emitted.

I understand there are a lot of great things that might be done in the area of “green” energy. Before we do that, let’s look at the money, where it’s coming from and where is it going.  Many privileged “do-gooders” are making a killing on concerns around CO2, despite the fact that their personal carbon footprints are through the roof.  They want to limit the choices of others, while being shielded themselves from any meaningful personal inconveniences. Many, many more less well-off individuals are paying costs that are personally highly significant and even burdensome, to support questionable green endeavors.

Moving forward, let us be clear and always seek to understand where the money is coming from and where it is going. So many great “green” projects fail to live up to expectations. Let us evaluate projects after they are completed, to see whether or not they did much good before we take even more money for similar ones from consumers.   It’s not enough to believe it’s a good cause, therefore all actions and effort are justified if they have some hope of meeting the goals.  We need to be accountable to those who depend upon the grid and who pay for their energy needs. We should see accounting as complete as possible telling us who the winners and losers are in these “green” undertakings.  But as far as I can tell, we almost never see any follow up on these grand failures.  I’m afraid no one of any importance is paying enough attention to Granny.

If we must do big “green” things, let’s think about the money.  I don’t know whether we should tax the wealthy, just print up money, raise corporate taxes, hit the middle class or what.  I do know we shouldn’t just pass the costs on to Granny.  She just needs a small amount of economic and reliable energy produced in a publicly responsible way that maybe doesn’t hold her disproportionately responsible for solving all the world’s problems.

Postscript:  Poor Oma in Germany

I’m afraid the “green transition” has already done great harm to many poor German grandmothers.  The  German Energiewende, has been described as  the “ transition by Germany to a low carbon, environmentally sound, reliable, and affordable energy supply”. Many saw Germany as a showcase for what was possible. In earlier years it has been touted as a spectacular success.   Grid concerns associated with a “green” transition were often dismissed by simple declaring “What about Germany”.  In 2017 I coauthored this article entitled The Myth of the German Renewable Energy Miracle.   In 2019 after spending over $150 billion in Euros, Federal Court of Auditors President Kay Schuller noted that the expenditures “are in extreme disproportion to the results”.  Although a lot of wind and solar were added, since then the results of the German transition appear to me more and more disappointing with time.

While Germany did add a lot of wind and solar, their efforts have not proved sustainable  benefits and they are now are stymied by their own increased use of coal and oil.  They changed a lot, but it was not foundational change. Germany’s past energy policies have created international repercussions.  But it is sad enough just to note the impacts upon the German population.   Energy poverty has been a major problem for many and it is expanding to where you now see headlines proclaiming that Energy poverty increasingly affecting Germanys middle class.   In Germany and other parts of Europe we are seeing increasing problems of “Heat or Eat” (See hereherehere or just Google it).

It’s a tough situation.  Who pays for that expensive failed experiment?  How should Germany balance what industrial customers pay, versus what residents pay?  These are challenging painful weighty decisions.  If power is too expensive for businesses, the economy may be wrecked for all.  But forcing the cost on those less well off is cruel.  It’s much better to not go there to such an extreme and reduce the likelihood of such problems.  Maybe I was correct to assume that you just can’t print up money to run costly experiments on the grid. Costs may matter after all. Let’s make sure we don’t drive our grandmothers toward ruin by unworkable technology based on overly hopeful dreams which ignore where the money will come from if they fail.

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Steve Case
January 30, 2023 6:52 am

“Meeting regulations was a requirement, not our end goal.”

An interesting statement if ever there was one.

We have food stamps for the grannies, why not extend that to electric bills? Any use over so many kilowatt hours you pay full price. Sort of like the co-pay with drugs. Or any use over that minimum is taxed.

I look forward to the dislike (-) clicks.

Joe Crawford
Reply to  Steve Case
January 30, 2023 7:33 am

Why no a sliding scale for electricity pricing… the more you use, the higher the price? Of course you’d probably have to figure out how to account for the homes with large solar roof systems and price those differently.

Last edited 1 month ago by Joe Crawford
Steve Case
Reply to  Joe Crawford
January 30, 2023 7:54 am

“Why no a sliding scale for electricity pricing…”

Sure, I expect there are all sorts of creative ways to make sure people have access to basic needs. The definition of basic needs can’t be so generous that sitting home and collecting government handouts is attractive. Socialism does have its problems.

Michael S. Kelly
Reply to  Joe Crawford
January 30, 2023 7:57 pm

I lived in Southern California for 28 years, suffering under Southern California Edison electric power dominion. In the last 11 years I was there (fled in 2008), they adopted what amounted to a progressive income tax style of power rates. They set an arbitrary (and ludicrously low) “baseline” rate, which, for a house our size (4,400 square feet), was guaranteed to be exceeded every month. There were additional steps in rate above certain usage points. The highest electric bill we had for one month was $1,200.00.

Fifteen years later, I’m living in northern Virginia. Our house here is actually somewhat larger than the one in California, but our electric power comes from the cooperative Novec. Though our summers here have both similar temperature highs as those in So Cal, here we have the added burden of 85 to 90% relative humidity – in the desert where we lived, it rarely exceeded 40%. Yet our highest electric bill to date was $384.00.

Our southern California experience is where sliding scale billing will get you, especially when added to an incompetent electric utility operating in a “woke” state.

Last edited 1 month ago by Michael S. Kelly
Reply to  Steve Case
January 30, 2023 7:52 am

You have to put big ideas in context with other big ideas in the road to ruin. Medicaid for almost all as a free, no co-pay system is one current push and the college loan forgiveness for almost all with the same open access to the system is another.

Reply to  Steve Case
January 30, 2023 8:12 am

“We have food stamps for the grannies, why not extend that to electric bills?”

Its a different problem. The food stamp problem was that there was plenty of food in the shops at reasonable prices set by the market. But there were some too poor to buy it. So you give money earmarked for basic food, and they can buy it.

Net Zero consists of destroying the reliability and affordability of the grid through regulation. This leads to a giant sucking sound as more and more of the nation’s funds go on attempting to generate power through unreliable and expensive with it systems. Prices then rise, to pass the costs on to the consumers.

The difference is, the problem in the second case comes from changing the product.

The solution is not to give people money earmarked for the energy so generated. Its to stop mandating the use of ineffective and unaffordable technology to generate power.

Pat from Kerbob
Reply to  michel
January 30, 2023 9:30 am


Reply to  michel
January 31, 2023 1:18 pm

Having been “poor”, my wife and I CHOSE to be independent and NOT ‘take from our fellow taxpayers’ (food stamps). We merely became VERY selective in our food choices (as we already were), and we always ‘ate’. I have, for DECADES, stood behind persons paying for their heaping baskets of foodstuffs, and noticing when those persons departed, they did so in quite new vehicles. That, and the “better clothes than we wore”, convinced me long ago, that ALL freebies become corrupted. Tough it out! as my parents and theirs did. lol

Reply to  Steve Case
January 30, 2023 9:04 am

Of course the electric bills will be subsidized, getting more people dependent on government. I’d give you an upvote on your accurate comment, but I don’t vote on comments.

Pat from Kerbob
Reply to  Richard Greene
January 30, 2023 9:31 am

I would suggest that is the whole point of the exercise. Destroy the market, force up prices, revel in the gratitude of the masses when you send them money to pay for it.
Its the governing model of our Trudeau Liberals.

Reply to  Pat from Kerbob
January 30, 2023 8:03 pm

The ultimate goal of leftism is everyone dependent on government. … and you spelled TrueDope wrong.

John Hultquist
Reply to  Steve Case
January 30, 2023 9:49 am

 The County has programs to help “grannies” and the utility providing my electricity has a line on the bill called “HELPING HANDS”. Customers voluntarily have the District tack on a contribution. These are given to the Hope Source Program for assistance to low income people.
Neither I nor the District knows whether grannies or non-grannies receive money.  

Reply to  John Hultquist
January 30, 2023 9:58 am

Low-income heating and energy assistance programs (LI-HEAP) are funded through state governments, probably by the federal government. One has to apply and be approved, but there is a lot of money there.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Steve Case
January 30, 2023 12:19 pm

Or send perps like Bill Gates, Bloomberg, Schwab, Soros… the heat and light bills.

Reply to  Steve Case
January 30, 2023 12:47 pm

Interesting thoughts, but how about just not doing stupid projects? As the old idiom says, “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”

This struck me as a philosophy to live by in my university administration job as I watch “green” colleges and universities waste vast sums on GHG and sustainability virtue signaling inside their ivied walls, while John and Jane Doe down the street have to pay for it or can’t afford to waste their meager resources on the same technologies. Meanwhile, college tuitions and fees climb faster than inflation and university operations staff get passed over for cost-of-living pay raises.

Reply to  Steve Case
January 30, 2023 2:09 pm

Steve, this article misses the whole point of these energy policies, which is to make energy too expensive for your grannie (and everyone else too). So your grannie dies. Whenever you find as socialist policy with unintended side-effects, you should realise that the side-effects are the actual intent of the policy.

Reply to  Hivemind
January 30, 2023 8:07 pm

Leftist policies have a goal: More political power and control.
The negative side effects are just collateral damage.

Reply to  Richard Greene
January 31, 2023 6:54 am

The negative side effects are just collateral damage.

I used to think that, but at this point it appears more like the negative side effects are intentional.

Reply to  Hivemind
January 31, 2023 1:23 pm

the side-effects are the actual intent of the policy.” With no clearer, deadlier example than the Covid “policies”.

Reply to  Steve Case
January 30, 2023 6:59 pm

Well who doesn’t want to be interesting, Our end goal was economic, reliable publicly responsible energy. That’s a great inspiring goal, Certainly we were commode to meeting regulations. But who would aspire to work for a company whose main mission was to meet regulations? Making grades was a requirement when I went to school but getting an education was my end goal. Curious if you think that requirements should be the end goal. They are a means and if they become the ends it seems much is lost.

Reply to  aplanningengineer
January 30, 2023 7:01 pm

Committed not commode. What a place and combo for that typo to occur.

Reply to  aplanningengineer
January 31, 2023 1:25 pm

Great pickup, thanks.

More Soylent Green!
Reply to  Steve Case
January 30, 2023 7:08 pm

How very typical. Regulate electricity until the mandates and regulatory costs make it unaffordable, then subsidize it. It works great until you run out of other people’s money.

And it’s always the middle class that pays. Ain’t it funny how the same people who lament the alleged demise of the middle class are the same people who advocate policies squarely aimed to destroy the middle class?

Reply to  More Soylent Green!
January 31, 2023 1:27 pm

The U.S. gov’t. has the solution in hand.. just keep printing the paper… the costs continue to spiral… and, ’round and round we go’.

January 30, 2023 7:23 am

Thank you for this article. I have long argued to anyone who will listen–which isn’t many these days–that the cost of energy falls on the poor disproportionately, and largely on women, as well. The best thing anyone can do for society is make energy affordable to the masses, as this frees up people, especially women, to work outside the home and contribute to the economy. Keeping granny cold and at home because she can’t afford anything else is a detriment not just to granny but society in general.

The same is true for farmers–the more energy costs, the less they use, and less efficient they can be. By extension, the same is true for any industry or business. It is no accident that the availability of cheap energy coincided with the development of specialized trades and factories. Granny is just the canary in coal mines.

Reply to  starzmom
January 30, 2023 8:25 am

“…and largely on women…” How so? This sounds like another victim mentality statement that are becoming prevalent these days.

Reply to  mleskovarsocalrrcom
January 30, 2023 9:14 am

Women make up a larger proportion of the poor–single mothers, elderly women–than men do. Elderly women in particular have lower social security benefits than most men, because as a group, they did not earn as much in their lifetimes. Yes, there are public safety nets, but no one gets rich on welfare or social security.

I don’t make this statement to victimize people, but because it is true. Sometimes poverty is the result of poor decisions, for which there are consequences, but government policies and dictates should not exacerbate the problem.

John Hultquist
Reply to  starzmom
January 30, 2023 10:03 am

Elderly women in particular have lower social security benefits than most men,”

This may change in the future because the majority of advanced degrees are being earned by women. Of course, Congress Critters need to fix the SS program.

Also, if one of a couple dies, the SS payment goes down. The “death benefit” was set at $255 eighty years ago. The cost of a funeral has followed a power function (hockey stick) and the death benefit is still $255.

Reply to  John Hultquist
January 30, 2023 10:20 am

I hope the playing field is leveling out. There are still a lot of women who have taken some years out of their careers to raise kids–whether it is settling for part time work, taking a less demanding job or whatever–and will ultimately end up with a lower earnings history than men in an otherwise comparable position. I know this because I am one of them, as are most of my friends.

As the person managing my mother’s money (she is a 91 year old widow), I know that her SS is based on my dad’s income, and is a fraction of what he got. While he was alive, she got a separate SS, based partially on her income (very little) and partially on his. She no longer gets that. And yeah, that “death benefit” is pretty useless.

Reply to  starzmom
January 30, 2023 1:22 pm

You make it sound as though those pesky children hurt women’s careers. Child-bearing and nurturing a healthy family are the noblest of professions for men and women. There are many couples who still choose to have mom (sometimes dad) stay at home as a career. They do so knowingly, with eyes open, aware that the blessings and rewards for both them and society at large outweigh a few dollars less income. One just has to adjust one’s expectations, but the system is increasingly aligned against the single-income family. Contrast the 1950s, when in the U.S., an uneducated, non-union milkman could support a family of five or six, buy a house and car and live comfortably. My father-in-law did just that.

In some respects, feeling forced into the job market to make “ends meet” can be a bit like slavery. Why is it that society laments lower labor participation rates among women? At the other end of life, millions of family members (men and women) become unpaid caregivers for elderly or chronically ill family members, unpaid work valued at hundreds of $billions per year. I am one of those unpaid caregivers, caring for my chronically ill wife, a gifted, degreed mathematician whose career has been stay-at-home wife, mom and grandma.

In communism, EVERYBODY must work for pay, and the state rears the children.

Reply to  pflashgordon
January 30, 2023 2:05 pm

I would never call my children pesky, although 25 years ago there may have been times…. And I did stay at home with them for years and did lose a career over it–then I went back to law school and became a lawyer, a career I just left to take care of my elderly mother and disabled sister. I feel fortunate that we can afford for me to do those things. I am also glad that you can care for your wife, and not have to make the hard decisions that go with Medicaid. My hat is off to you, as I know how hard it can be.

I am not “lamenting” the fact that women’s labor participation rates and earnings are lower–I pointed that out to support the fact that women make up a larger proportion of “the poor” than men. I was accused of making women out to be victims by pointing out these facts. Women are no more victims than anybody else, but the government should not make policies that disproportionately impact the poor without evaluating just that possibility.

Reply to  starzmom
January 31, 2023 7:29 am

I understand, starzmom. Thank you for your thoughtful reply. This whole article and discussion highlight some systemic root causes and the foolishness of incompetent “leaders” whose policies oppress not only the poor but also middle class families.

Reply to  starzmom
January 31, 2023 1:33 pm

Were ‘savings’ planning non-existent with your parents? No one should “depend” on a (promised) gov’t. stipend.

Reply to  sturmudgeon
January 31, 2023 3:30 pm

My mother does support herself in a senior care facility through pensions and savings; I manage her affairs and her medical care and the things. It can take an amazing amount of time even when you are not providing the hands-on day to day care of an elderly person. No government handouts needed.

My sister on the other hand is severely disabled now and did not provide for herself when she was able. So, yes, she is in the government safety net. I also manage most of her affairs.

I agree that no one should depend on the promise of a government hand-out, but I am glad we have that compassion in this country, even if some people abuse it.

Reply to  starzmom
January 31, 2023 1:29 pm

 but no one gets rich on welfare or social security.” Pretty bold statement.

Reply to  mleskovarsocalrrcom
January 30, 2023 9:22 am

Because women set the thermostat higher than men, usually, so will have higher electric and gas bills. The wife prefers 72 degrees and I prefer 68 degrees We compromised at 70 degrees since 1987, until I saw our first winter gas and electricity bills this year. We’re at 68 degrees now. She wears a sweater. … Her Mother liked 76 degrees — her apartment was like an oven in the winter. I had to open the window a crack and sit near it in the winter so as not to suffocate. Other single female friends like warm too.

Women also don’t like LED lights, fail to turn off incandescent lights when leaving a room (200 watts our bedroom), fall asleep with the TV on (300 watts), use those power sucking harr blowers, and use a conventional oven a lot more than men, who prefer microwave ovens. I’ve been married for over 45 years, so I feel free to speak the truth. Which is why I always wear a bicycle helmet at home for protection.

Last edited 1 month ago by Richard Greene
Reply to  Richard Greene
January 30, 2023 10:22 am

I still remember the office fights over the thermostat. The end result in my office was that the women had heaters under their desks to keep their legs warm. So much for energy conservation!!

Reply to  starzmom
January 30, 2023 10:48 am

Brings a new slant on the shanty “Fire down below”!

Reply to  starzmom
January 30, 2023 8:26 pm

Most women love heat, with the only exceptions being those undergoing menopause or very fat women, according to my non-scientific studies.

Also, a lot of poor families are single women with children.

For one year at work, I had a very large cubicle for myself — four times the normal size. I was surrounded by about 50 engineers in smaller cubicles.

Every morning a female engineer would come into my cubicle and ask to turn up the thermostat on my wall because she and other female engineers were cold.

After lunch a male engineer would come in and ask to turn down the thermostat after the sunshine coming in the non-tinted windows all morning had warmed the building

After a week or two, I called the maintenance people and asked them to install a shield over the thermostat to stop the interruptions every day.

They told me the thermostat had not controlled the heat in that section of the office building for decades. The temperature in our engineering office building was controlled from the body engineering building about a quarter mile away.

They refused to remove the thermostat, claiming it was still being used to remotely monitor the temperature. But they did install a locked screen over it and eventually the engineers stopped coming into my office asking to adjust the thermostat.

…. The wife thought this was hilarious although she pointed ut it was a convenient way for me to meet women. She suggested a locked shield over the thermostat. The female engineers seemed to appoint a different thermostat adjusting engineer to come into my office every morning.

This is a true story.

Last edited 1 month ago by Richard Greene
Reply to  Richard Greene
January 30, 2023 9:56 pm

Early in my career, the cooling units in a new meat cutting line were causing the ladies to complain about the cold. We sent an old Scottish refrigeration mechanic to check out the problem. I envisioned it would take different evaporator pressure regulators and multi-speed fans. Later that day, I asked him how he managed to resolve the issue so quickly. He claimed he simply pried the thermometer bulb higher in the thermostat cover with his pocket screwdriver so that it read a few degrees warmer.

Reply to  starzmom
January 31, 2023 2:33 am

Many female engineers did have heaters under their desks back in the 1990s. I forgot about that. But they still came into my office to adjust the thermostat to get more heat every morning. Not that the thermostat was connected to any furnaces. But no one knew hat.

Reply to  Richard Greene
January 30, 2023 6:21 pm

As I sit here, the thermostat is set to 76 but I am wearing a sweat shirt and lined pants. If it gets any colder I would need a jacket and a blanket. On the other hand, I am not a hypocrite and in the summer the thermostat goes up to 79 degrees and if for some reason it needs to go higher, I wouldn’t mind a few degrees warmer.
Naturally when it’s 110 outside 79 degrees feels like a refrigerator when you first walk in.
As for LED lighs, I dislike the daylight one but there are LEDs that approximate the same color of incandescent lights and I am fine with those. I takes a little looking to find them but they are out there. You might buy a few and slip them in when your wife isn’t around.

Reply to  Dena
January 30, 2023 8:43 pm

I have an LED light on my night table next to the bed on my side, and a 200-watt incandescent bulb on a dimmer switch on the night table on her side of the bed. I tried to sneak in a dimmable LED bulb, and she caught it right away. That was argument #874. So now it’s back to a 200-watt incandescent bulb again. I am still trying to train her to dim the bulb, at least, when leaving the bedroom. Her response is “I don’t like to live in the dark” … I am thrilled the wife tolerates 68 degrees with a sweater on, when she really likes 72 degrees with no sweater.

The two keys to a good marriage:
(1) If anything goes wrong, you, the man, are responsible and

(2) Try to avoid arguments. We have only had one argument, back in 1977. Hopefully, it will conclude in a year or two. … ha ha

Reply to  Richard Greene
January 30, 2023 9:42 pm

At 71 my night vision is still surprisingly good however I can see the start of cataracts which I will address when they become a problem. Still the hallway and guest bathroom are pretty dark. For navigation I have a 7 watt equivalent LED night light about midway down the hall that I leave on all the time. I have another one in the guest bathroom that’s plugged in when somebody else is in the house.
I just added a third night light in the guest bedroom because my guest likes things lit up a bit more than I do. That’s probably less than a total 7 watt drain so it isn’t going to run the bill up much. Now if I could only get my guest to turn off the lights that aren’t being used.

Reply to  Richard Greene
January 31, 2023 3:33 pm

If the wife defers all important decisions to her husband, he will soon learn that there are no important decisions. This helps prevent arguments.

Reply to  Dena
January 31, 2023 1:40 pm

That’s not ‘his wife’… ” it’s” (intended) ‘the wife’.

Reply to  Richard Greene
January 30, 2023 9:35 pm

Bicycle helmet…ha ha…

Reply to  Richard Greene
January 31, 2023 1:36 pm

“the wife” No wonder you wear that helmet.

Steve Case
Reply to  starzmom
January 30, 2023 8:30 am

“…the cost of energy falls on the poor disproportionately”

That can be said of all the basic necessities of life. Government should not be creating more programs that disproportionately affect the poor. You know, property taxes, flat taxes, and sales taxes.

Reply to  Steve Case
January 30, 2023 9:16 am

This is very true–all costs of life fall on the poor disproportionately. The business of government should not be to make life harder just because.

Reply to  Steve Case
January 30, 2023 6:52 pm

Yes the cost of basic necessities of life do. But the cost of worldwide social good should not. Read the whole article. Why make Granny pay social costs of carbon for heat, but not the cigar boat driver or private jet users,

Reply to  aplanningengineer
January 30, 2023 8:47 pm

What social good?
What social cost?
Adding CO2 to the atmosphere benefits our planet in many ways. There are no costs (except money wasted on Nut Zero). You seem very confused on climate science.

Reply to  starzmom
January 30, 2023 7:02 pm

You are most welcome.

January 30, 2023 7:46 am

Let’s see what CBS and Ehrlich have to say about granny before offering assistance.

January 30, 2023 8:52 am

The advocates of the “Green” Energy Transition intend for a large percentage of the population to be cut off from energy entirely. No cars (EV or not), no fossil fueled anything, ruinous electricity costs, crushing regulations on everything.

They believe that humans are destroying the environment… so like Thanos in The Avengers movies, they believe that 50% will just have to be … eliminated. They won’t admit it, even to themselves, but that is what the results will be.

January 30, 2023 9:01 am

I have considered The Planning Engineer to be the best author at Climate Etc. I have recommended every article of his. Until this one. It has three problems, in my opinion:

One minor problem:
Too long, so needed a lot of editing.

One moderate problem
Why just grandmothers? Most poor and lower middle class families are not grandmothers. This article at the link below explains real life finances. I recommended itas number (13) in my Other Reading List column, on my climate science and energy blog yesterday:
Honest Climate Science and Energy

(13) The Cost of Living Has Become Extremely Oppressive And 57 Percent of Americans Cannot Afford A $1,000 Emergency Expense, by Michael Snyder  The Cost Of Living Has Become Extremely Oppressive And 57 Percent Of Americans Cannot Afford A $1,000 Emergency Expense (

One major problem was this paragraph:
“The green transition is primarily driven by concerns over CO2 emissions and the existential crises of climate change. I am not seeking here to amplify nor quell the concerns around CO2. The points I will raise here becomes more important the greater the challenges faced in reducing CO2. I am asking everyone who views the reduction of CO2 as critically important, to thoughtfully consider who should pay for the needed reductions.”

I believe it is negligence for an author to talk about an energy transition without ever mentioning that such a transition is not needed. Not needed because there is no climate crisis, and CO2 emissions are not evil. I consider CO2 emissions beneficial, and so do my plants.

Reply to  Richard Greene
January 30, 2023 1:29 pm

See my response to starzmom above. A diligent worker in the 1950s and 60s, even though uneducated or a tradesman, could support a family fairly comfortably on a single income. Not so easy today, although part of the problem is inflated wants and expectations.

More Soylent Green!
Reply to  pflashgordon
January 30, 2023 7:19 pm

I want you to compare how people lived 60 and 70 years ago to hoe people live today. Get back to the basics. No internet, cable, central air, dishwashers, microwave, no cell phones, etc.

Most people don’t want to live that way and choose not to. It costs more to live today because what were unimaginable luxuries when I was a child are “necessities” today.

Reply to  More Soylent Green!
January 31, 2023 3:00 am

Myu family was barely a middle class family with Dad as a union electrician and Mom as a homemaker. He retired at age 65 and lived to 98.
We had cable TV — the only way to get NYC TV stations
We had three window air conditioners.
Mom was the dishwasher
A long distance phone call was $1 a minute during business hours
We got by with one car until I was old enough to drive and then I got the old jalopy on its last legs.

The wife and I both retired at age 51
We share one car now to save money
We get by comfortably with two window air conditioners
The last Panasonic microwave oven I bought cost $67
We do have a dishwasher
Long distance calls are free now
The cell Samsung cell phones were free, and cost only $30 a month for service, from Xfinity
Yes, we do spend over $200 a month for cable TV, internet. cell phones, and an internet telephone — our only luxuries.

The biggest difference between now and 1960s is how much more taxes working people have to pay.

Social Security taxes were 3% in 1960, times two, or 6%
Social Security taxes now are 6.2% times two, or 12.4%

The worker pays both parts of the SS and Medicare tax, whether he knows that, or not.

Medicare taxes did not exist in 1960.
Medicare taxes today are 1.45%, times two, or 2.9%

Social Security + Medicare Taxes
1960 = 6%
2023 = 15.3%

2023 taxes are +9.3 percentage points higher than in 1960.
That’s like a 9.3% pay cut.

Other federal and state taxes are higher too, including the recent inflation “tax” created by deficit spending. The employer pays half is a con job.

I did a feature article on the subject for my prior newsletter ECONOMIC LOGIC, and taxes were the largest factor making it tough to get by on one income in the past decade or two.

Reply to  pflashgordon
January 30, 2023 8:54 pm

Total taxes are higher now to support more government … and higher inflation too (which is another tax to support government deficit spending). . A family could have one car then. And a smaller home than now. … And not spend more than they could afford. … My father was an electrician in the IBEW union. Saved a lot of money too — no debt for us and no luxuries. Nothing was replaced unless it was broken.

Reply to  Richard Greene
January 30, 2023 7:16 pm

Thanks for the kind words. Sorry for the disappointment. It Is too long. An editor would of cut it. I write for free, wanted to get it all out and got no pushback. Thanks if you read it all. I recommended skipping sections. Why grandmothers? Judith asked too. It was a shorthand I used and others in the coop world used to stand for the poor, struggling and frugal. It gave focus. I automatically means a lot to me, sorry others struggle with a narrow flag bearer for a bigger class. On the issue of CO2 I have no special expertise or position to advocate from. I want every one to value a good energy system and the great good it does, despite any other beliefs they may have or how Ill founded those other beliefs might be. Maybe you will like the next one better.

Reply to  aplanningengineer
January 30, 2023 9:15 pm

I didn’t hate the article. I read the whole thing. I would never comment without doing that. An article from you, that I consider below average, is better than most articles by other authors. With editing it had the potential to be a great article.

It’s just that the audience here are refuting CAGW, and the unnecessary transition to Nut Zero, that will never happen anyway.

So when anyone talks about an energy transition, without mentioning it is not necessary, we are disappointed.

Nut Zero can not succeed.
7 billion people out of 8 billion are not involved
There’s not enough copper and lithium
There is no feasible, affordable plan, proven with successful pilot projects.

I am in the minority — I don’t believe Nut Zero was intended to succeed. I believe Nut Zero is a leftist exercise to seize power and control over the private sector. In a few years, when it is obvious Nut Zero is hopelessly behind the arbitrary schedule, that fact will be declared to be a new climate emergency. And every emergency, whether real or fake (like Nut Zero failing), can only be fixed by more government power and less personal freedom.

The ultimate goal is Rule by Leftist experts. Climate scaremongering and Nut Zero are just propaganda tools to get there.

As an engineer, or former engineer, you should realize that electric grids were NOT broken, so did not need to be “fixed”.

And if they needed to be more reliable, then windmills and solar panels are the wrong solution.

It would make sense to advocate for nuclear power plants, to replace coal power plants after their useful lifespan ended.
Like France did in the 1970s.

But adding unreliable wind and solar power makes no sense. We will reach a Flounder Limit (my invention, Nobel Prize pending) when too many unreliables make an electric grid unmanageable, That limit would be a political fear factor — fear of repeated blackouts that will cause leftists to lose political power. Something that even massive election fraud could not fix. To be fair, the use of more unreliables should make grid management jobs more exciting.

Reply to  Richard Greene
January 31, 2023 7:44 am

I appreciate you and understand your goals. I think (and I may be wrong) that we need some people to tie it all together and explains the whole story. But I think it’s good to be able to point to the engineers and say this is what they are saying, point To climate evidence and say that’s what’s important there, point to the good CO2 experts and credit them. We want to point to the best in each group for their individual contribution. To me a mishmash of engineers, scientists, … all saying the same thing across the board and appearing to speak of expertise outside their own fields seems more political, less credible. Of course many climate scientist speak about how renewables work well. To me this diminishes their overall credibility. But maybe most folks don’t work that way. Please note . I believe the ones that tie it all together and important lThe tying together people are critically important. I like Alex Epstein and Bjorn Lomborg for that and others, but that’s not my role.

Daniel Church
January 30, 2023 9:05 am

See the chapter about Gertie in my novel. People are dying due to fuel poverty worldwide, and their numbers will only increase. It is an annual, largely unseen holocaust.

Reply to  Daniel Church
January 30, 2023 11:02 am

I have just read the novel Winter Games by Daniel Church. It is a novel about a set of activists who one after the other arrange their suicide by self-inflicted hypothermia by sitting in light clothing in a stream of air from a fan at a temperature of 59Deg F about 15 Dig C. 15 Degrees was the selected temperature which is the spatially and temporally average temperature of the world.
The main purpose of this exercise was to publicise the huge number of deaths by hypothermia of people too poor to afford paying skyrocketing energy bills largely as a result of misguided green policies. It is a real good read both as a general summary of the vacuousness so the Climatist point of view and as a good old fashioned suspense thriller. I recommend it.
Reading this book made me think about who are the authors whose books have most effect on both sides of the debate. On the sceptic side I can come up with Decimole, Tim Ball, Andrew Montford, Ian Plimer, Steve Kooning, Michael Schellenberger, Bjorn Lomborg, Jim Steele, Donna Laframboise, Patrick Moore  and many others. Generally, on the sceptic side the books are well written and properly researched
On the other side, where I have tended not to waste my money by buying any of the doomster’s books because mostly, they are evidence – free “scientists Say ““97% of climate scientists “and other piles of vacuous nonsense and undocumented assertions. One exception -I did in fact buy Michael Mann’s Climate wars book and found as expected that Mann’s literary style is as tedious and half-baked as his scholarship and scientific rigour. A pathetic stream of drivel and big oil conspiracy theory
Out of interest Can anyone tell me which books from the AGW camp are the most influential to their acolytes, or the most widely read, or even the most interesting if these guys go in for interesting writing. Oh I also read the tome by the royal idiot formerly known as Prince. It was a Ladybird Book directed at children to scare them witless and push his green agenda- Wine and cheese powered Aston Martins and helicopters for the crowned knobs  and communally owned bicycles for the serfs

Reply to  alastairgray29yahoocom
January 30, 2023 9:21 pm

Fear of CO2 is not a belief based on facts, data and logic, so can not be refuted by facts, data and logic.

The authors you named are not in positions of government authority. They get overwhelmed by the appeal to authority logical fallacy among leftists (and some conservatives too) and confirmation bias,

Reply to  Richard Greene
January 31, 2023 8:27 am

Obviously not but I was asking if anyone could either name someone on the other side who has written well and cogently in favour of the AGW hypothesis, and also nominations for who are the most influential opinion forming authors not necessarily implying that these authors are either excellent or cogent

January 30, 2023 9:14 am

Forget about granny she had it good for long time. I feel sorry for her grandchildren.
This is copy from the energy supplier to one of my siblings, who was on a just expired fixed deal with £110 monthly debit, for dual fuel (gas & electricity)
Just a quick reminder: we’ll collect your new monthly Direct Debit payment of £308.15 on 6th February.

Dave Andrews
Reply to  vuk
January 30, 2023 10:07 am

Unfortunately all energy costs have risen dramatically this past year. We are out in the country so have oil fired heating. 850 litres Dec 2021 £475 – 850 litres Dec 2022 £825

We are both retired and fortunate enough to be able to afford it But many people are suffering now and having to cut back on their energy use. I just hope for their sake that we don’t have an extended cold spell over the coming weeks.

John Hultquist
Reply to  vuk
January 30, 2023 10:12 am

In central Washington State (think mostly hydro), the local utility did not change the rate for 2023. My house is 100% electric, so that’s nice.

January 30, 2023 11:17 am

Energy policies that force consumers to incur huge costs to meet larger public aims become a hidden form of taxation. 

Uh, hidden? No. It’s a blatant form of taxation, and the public who’s punished by such policies should have a say in the rules that do the punishing. It’s not enough to claim that they elect the politicians who make the rules – too many of those wise solons are indifferent to, or wholly ignorant of, the true costs of the magical something-for-nothing creation of energy out of sunshine and breezes. And our cynical ‘news’ media, by its incessant fear-mongering alternated with loving descriptions of that electric Garden of Eden, are just as responsible for the indifference or ignorance. So, start with ABC NBC CNN et al, and rattle some of their cozy cages.

Crispin in Val Quentin but really in Kigali
January 30, 2023 11:26 am

For example, it may be cheaper to burn material than use cleaner electric power.”

I support this view. In Asia there are about 500m people dependent on coal for cooking and heating. Mostly they use pretty awful equipment so it is worth looking at the case of putting them onto electric equipment or upgrading their coal-fired appliances. I work on the latter, but analyse all.

I should mention the 500m people are all poor, save a very few. We are talking about people who typically have an annual emission of 1 ton of CO2 per person per year.

A group I work with showed long ago that in South Africa (which is coal-powered from end to end) that it was far more cost efficient and carbon-efficient to burn coal in the home thna to generate electricity and distribute it, even subsidised. Thermal and grid losses on a large scale are simply too high to ever compete with modern coal combustion on a small scale. It is granny who benefits the most because the cost of coal (fairly and reasonably distributed) is so low. The fact that a coal mafia exists in South Africa and is a huge financial burden on the poor does not detract from the economics. It could cost half as much, or less, if it involved a more reasonable distribution system.

In Central Asia the situation is more dire. Poor people are either dependent on government subsidised power in the cities, or on their own in the countryside. The grid is not dependable enough to reply on it for avoiding thermal death. What can be observed is that countries with an excess of electricity like Tajikistan, feel it necessary to sell power to Pakistan through the Central Asian Grid to generate income, leaving coal-burning populations to fend pretty much for themselves. The social safety net in Central Asia (the “stans”) is reliable in that fuel is provided by the local administration, but no one can seriously assert that electricity will be how modernisation is done. Maybe in 40 years.

Given that we have a CO2 emitting future, concentrate on efficiency and access to modern technology. If everyone on the planet gets “an allocation” then the coal-dependent poor in their hundreds of millions are already secure. What threatens them is the fanatical interest of the Western rich to have what they think of as a problem “solved” by the foreign poor. We should not be asking the poor, who grow vast fields of food, to reduce their carbon footprint. I am not convinced they have one.

Gary Pearse
January 30, 2023 12:13 pm

“The price of energy has tremendous direct and indirect costs on society. Energy costs make up more than one-fifth of the after-tax income of America’s lowest income quintile.”

Just to be clear, energy is the base of the economy with a huge multiplier that isn’t appreciated by most, and certainly not by the most talentless heads of state the west has ever known. Worse, they’ve surrounded themselves with empty-headed (or purposefuly misanthropic) advisors. Granny’s plight is a feature, not a bug.

Re the multiplier effect: let’s look just at bread. In the short term the farmer has takes shipments by rail or truck of seed, fertilizers, fuel, pesticides. He burns fuel to plow, fertilize, treat, harvest and transport his grain. Its then railed or tricked to flour mills where electric mills grind it, bag it and ship it once again to the bakeries, where it is baked in ovens, packaged and then shipped again by truck to warehouses, from which it is trucked once again to city retail stores where mom and pop hop in their car and go pick it up to make sandwiches or toast with it. Now imagine energy going up in price 5 to 10-fold in some places. In the longer term, imagine replacing the farm machinery.

January 30, 2023 12:31 pm

To quote the article, “ I don’t know whether we should tax the wealthy, just print up money, raise corporate taxes, hit the middle class or what.“ How about an honest ROI with accurate and realistic inputs and a short planning horizon, with ZERO credit for perceived “greenness,” GHG reductions, or market interference by government? Few to none of these parasitic wind and solar projects would ever be built.

In the consulting and engineering fields, I never read past the first web page when these trough-feeders open with wind, solar, sustainability, or ESG. When I ran a mid-sized environmental consulting firm, we would never have bid on such projects or pursued this “market.” There are plenty of other ethically-challenged firms ready and willing to make a buck with these scams.

January 30, 2023 1:48 pm

If this article does nothing else it shines a light on what a miserable job our political leaders, bureaucrats and administrators are doing. When prices are to high that is telling you that you are doing something wrong. The way to fix that is to quit doing it wrong. So called subsidies to help people struggling with high prices is just stupid. Where do you think the subsidies are coming from? You guessed it, us. So these morons are asking us to help us pay our bills. It doesn’t get any dumber than that. The high prices are telling us that wind and solar are not a substitute for fossil fuels and nuclear. Wake up, god people are stupid!

January 30, 2023 2:01 pm

The Groupthink madness isn’t going to happen and at some stage the penny will drop and commonsense will return-

As we discovered with Covid there’s a fallacy of composition that all nations can borrow from each other or their citizenry in order to avoid a communal drop in consumption due to lower productivity as it inevitably shows up as the medicine of inflation. Same deal with Gummints simply printing the money in many cases and ultimately the nastiest inflation medicine must be swallowed by those on fixed incomes or with low demand outputs.

Last edited 1 month ago by observa
John Pickens
January 30, 2023 3:26 pm

The big problem is that the cost of “green” energy is so high because it takes more energy to produce than it can ever deliver. It takes cheap China delivered coal energy to make solar, wind, and battery systems which are incapable of delivering as much energy as they took to produce. The “cost” isn’t the problem, the utter lack of net energy production is the problem

Reply to  John Pickens
January 30, 2023 8:39 pm

Supply down for same demand equals price up-
One more time slooooowly lefties. You can control the price or the quantity but never both at the same time.

May Contain Traces of Seafood
January 30, 2023 9:21 pm

The Youth should be paying for the world’s electricity.

They keep telling us they are the future, so about time THEY invested in it.

Although it the youth in question were willing to go to school a full five days a week I am sure some sort of discount can be organised…

Frankly if my children were spoiled entitled brats like Greta who DEMANDED a massive inheritance I would be spending the lot on hookers and blow out of spite.

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