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United States Power Science

US Pulls Plug on Low-CO2 Powerplant Project 360

Posted by Zonk
from the always-fun-to-breath dept.
Geoffrey.landis writes "The administration announced plans to withdraw its support from FutureGen. FutureGen was a project to develop a low CO2-emission electrical power plant, supported by an alliance of a dozen or so coal companies and utilities from around the world. The new plant would have captured carbon dioxide produced by combustion and pumped it deep underground, to avoid releasing greenhouse-gas into the atmosphere. It had been intended as a prototype for next generation clean-coal plants worldwide. Originally budgeted at about a billion dollars, the estimated cost had "ballooned" to $1.8 billion, according to U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman."
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US Pulls Plug on Low-CO2 Powerplant Project

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  • Money well spend? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by WarwickRyan (780794) on Sunday February 03, 2008 @05:37PM (#22285088)
    $1.8bill isn't a lot of money when compared to the cost of nuclear power, or the money spend blowing up parts of the Middle East..
    • Re:Money well spend? (Score:5, Informative)

      by pcmanjon (735165) on Sunday February 03, 2008 @05:42PM (#22285136)
      Bush announced this in his fiscal meeting. He actually canceled this project and re-allocated the funds to Iraq.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Please provide proof of your claim. Looking at the quote, the U.S. Energy Secretary obviously played a role in making this decision, and the project clearly exceeded its budget.
      • by onion_joe (625886) <jmerrill1234&gmail,com> on Sunday February 03, 2008 @07:19PM (#22285830)
        So we pull out of ITER again, cut funding for alternative CO2 reduction technologies, and decide to subsidize corn for biofuel source material.

        And spend close to a trillion dollars on a war over fossil resources in the Middle East.

        The US energy policy is fucked. Totally, completely, totally fucked. Utterly utterly mindbogglingly stupid.

    • Re:Money well spend? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Fjandr (66656) on Sunday February 03, 2008 @05:47PM (#22285168) Homepage Journal
      Not saying whether it's a good idea or not, but to put it into perspective: the entire cost of the coal project is equal to 10-11 days of expenditures in Iraq.
    • Flamebait?

      It's pretty valid comparing the cost of clean coal to the cost of Nuclear or Oil? Should I have phrased it a little different? I.e. spell out the cost of ensuring a steady supply of oil is, erm, enormous?
      • Re:Money well spent? (Score:5, Informative)

        by hedwards (940851) on Sunday February 03, 2008 @06:14PM (#22285338)
        You should indeed. Nuclear power is well understood and bringing a new reactor online can be done with technology which is already available.

        The objection that I have to this program was that it was an experiment, a costly one, with no guarantees of future success. Nuclear energy isn't a panacea or necessarily the best of ideas, but the risks and challenges are well known and it can already be used to produce energy in a cost effective manner.

        Most of the complaints people have about the current Fission reactors is that they are unsafe and the waste is toxic and hard to handle. But the reality is that it is really hard to get a nuclear reactor to reach a meltdown. Even the plant in Chernobyl which was being run in the least competent manner imaginable, was able to keep from reaching the really serious point where there's a sustained uncontrolled nuclear reaction. 3-mile island, the nuclear material was completely unable to make it past the huge amount of concrete that the facility was made of.

        The amount of waste from a reactor tends to be exaggerated, it is significantly less material than is created by coal plants, with the ability to reprocess the majority of the radioactive material for another plant. The amount of waste that is created in the US would be reduced significantly if it were subjected to the sort of reprocessing that happens in other parts of the world.
        • Re:Money well spent? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by tm2b (42473) on Sunday February 03, 2008 @06:30PM (#22285472) Journal

          The objection that I have to this program was that it was an experiment, a costly one, with no guarantees of future success.
          You know, I'm a big fan of nuclear power and not so much of coal. Still.

          If there were guarantees of future success, it wouldn't be much of an experiment. It's worth our pouring a lot of money (but still microscopic compared to our overall energy expenditures) into ambitious experiments just so that we learn the full range of options and their implications - if we learned, we example, from this experiment that "low Co2 coal" is much more dangerous and expensive (for whatever reason) than the coal industry would like us to believe, wouldn't that be worth a mere couple billion dollars?
          • Re:Money well spent? (Score:4, Informative)

            by TubeSteak (669689) on Sunday February 03, 2008 @07:58PM (#22286064) Journal
            If the USA wanted cleaner coal technology, they could have it right now, simply by forcing all coal plants to meet modern standards.

            As the laws now stand, you could drive a flotilla of aircraft carriers through the loopholes. For starters, pre-1970 coal burning powerplants were effectively grandfathered in under the Bush era laws. Those powerplants don't have to be upgraded to meet current regs as long as the owner only performs "routine maintanence".

            The EPA defines "routine maintanence" as anything that doesn't exceed 20% of the powerplant's value.

            In 5 years you could rebuild that powerplant doing nothing more than EPA approved routine maintanence.
        • by jfim (1167051) on Sunday February 03, 2008 @06:38PM (#22285532)

          The objection that I have to this program was that it was an experiment, a costly one, with no guarantees of future success.
          The fact that there were no guarantees of success is what makes research interesting and worth it. If you're only researching things that you're certain will lead somewhere, only incremental improvements are possible. On the other hand, fundamental research has no guarantee of finding something useful, but can lead to major breakthroughs(or not).
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by QuantumG (50515)
          Yes, for example, people are always complaining about the half-life of radioactive waste.. but what exactly is the half-life of carbon-dioxide? At least the waste from fission reactors can be processed and stored easily.. the same cannot be said for CO2.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by jjn1056 (85209)

          The amount of waste that is created in the US would be reduced significantly if it were subjected to the sort of reprocessing that happens in other parts of the world.


          My understanding is that reprocessing spent fuel rods creates fissionable material suitable for creating atomic weapons. My guess is that we can't 100% guarantee these reprocessed fuel rods won't end up being used as weapons and that's the reason the US doesn't do this.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by ianare (1132971)
            This is silly, not doing reprocessing has not done anything to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. This process has been used for a long time in France, Britain, and other countries, and there has never been any material reported missing. In the case of Iran for example, it was the North Koreans that gave them access to materials and tech. Some missing material from the break up of the Soviet Union, well who knows what was going on there at the time.

            The reason for the US not doing this is quite simple: th
    • Re:Money well spend? (Score:5, Informative)

      by BlueParrot (965239) on Sunday February 03, 2008 @06:27PM (#22285450)

      $1.8bill isn't a lot of money when compared to the cost of nuclear power


      Rubbish. Over in Britain the royal academy of engineering compared costs of nuclear ( yes, including decommissioning costs) to that of various energy sources: http://www.countryguardian.net/generation_costs_report2.pdf [countryguardian.net] . Essentially, while nuclear is expensive to build, the overall cost is comparable to coal fired power plants due to the low cost of fuel, and if you add on carbon capture and storage then the cost of coal overtakes nuclear rapidly.

      A further thing to take into consideration is that increased energy consumption across the world combined with decreasing oil reserves is likely to drive up the price of coal/uranium. Since the fuel is a much lower proportion of the cost of nuclear power than it is for coal power this is likely to have a much lower impact upon the cost of nuclear power than for coal.

      Finally, since nuclear power technology is advancing rapidly at the moment ( High temperature reactors around 2016 , breeders by 2025 , high efficiency hydrogen estimated 2030 ) the cost of nuclear plants is likely to drop ( per kilowatt generated ), while the cost of coal plants is likely to spike due to tighter emission standards.

      The capture and storage research is worth it mainly because we can't expand other energy sources quick enough. In the long term it is not going to be economically competitive.
      • Good point though, as energy prices increase then nuclear will become more cost effective. It's probably less environmentally damaging too, as you need so much less of the stuff than you do fossil fuels.

        Papers here (in UK) were suggesting that the costs for Nuclear are being massively underestimated, and that the *net* . That was back when there was talk of replacing the current power stations, so may well have been more greenie FUD.

        Just saw this on the BBC from 2005:

        > Nuclear electricity has been repo
        • Re:Money well spend? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by timmarhy (659436) on Sunday February 03, 2008 @06:51PM (#22285632)
          sorry but when i compare the OP's source of the royal academy of engineering vs UK papers, i have to say you'd be crazy to not go with the engineers who actually know something about nuclear power.

          there's no "probably" about nuclear being safer, it's a simple fact.

          there's always 2 things greenies try to call on nuclear - cost and life span. firstly while nuclear costs more initally, it's running costs see it break even with coal in 5 years. life span they will try tell you we only have 5 years of fissionable material - i make it clear right now they got that figure from the fact we have 5 years IF we all swapped to nuclear TODAY and relied totally on STOCKPILES. that means we didn't dig another ton out of the ground and didn't look for more. we also have breeder reactors which extend a plants life indefinately.

      • by Tony Hoyle (11698)
        The problem is you have to run a Nuclear power plant for 5 years + beyond its useful life to decomission it (and they only last about 40 years).. during that time it's consuming resources (manpower and cash at the mimimum - Sizewell A needs 100 employees on site 24/7), and after decomssioning renders the site uninhabitable for 100 years.

        Nuclear has become an option due to CO2 concerned after it was largely abandoned in the 90's, but it's not because it's cheaper.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by timmarhy (659436)
          100 people? so fucking what, do you have any idea the scale of spending we are talking about here? wages for 100 people is rounding error in these kinds of projects.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by FooAtWFU (699187)
      Isn't the war in Iraq great? A project goes $800,000,000 over budget and it's all fine and dandy and, to the Slashdot crowd, it gets a free pass because the war in Iraq costs more. Can't we at least give a nod to the fact that they're absurdly over budget, and entertain the possibility that they're just frittering away money wastefully?
      Yeah, so the funds are going to the iraq war and we all looooove to hate it. But here's some news for you: money's fungible; it'd all have to come out of the same taxes an
  • I'd like to note (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Icarus1919 (802533) on Sunday February 03, 2008 @05:37PM (#22285096)
    I'd like to note that $1 billion is about what the government spends on each of the new modern military aircraft that they purchase. If we just took a little out of the defense budget, the cost of something like this, which is a PROTOTYPE and expected to be expensive, wouldn't be as much of an issue.
    • by dpilot (134227)
      Heck, if this powerplant were a weapons system and the cost overrun was only 80%, it would be considered a bargain. Naah, it would be canceled because it was too cheap. No doubt there was no money in the budget to grease the right palms.
  • by OAB_X (818333)
    You blithering idiots! If given a choice between sucking on a black cloud of death, or not, I would choose not. I'm sure that Congress is wasting that much grandstanding with the major league baseball steroid inquiry that is before them, AGAIN.
    • by c6gunner (950153)

      You blithering idiots! If given a choice between sucking on a black cloud of death, or not, I would choose not.
      Well, good for you, but that's not the issue here. Carbon dioxide is not "a black cloud of death".
  • and it's floating over head, and requires no maintenance.
    • Sure... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Goonie (8651) <robert,merkel&benambra,org> on Sunday February 03, 2008 @05:47PM (#22285170) Homepage
      And it's only available 12 hours a day, costs a fortune to tap (and if you mention Nanosolar I suggest you call them up and offer them $1 per watt for their solar panels - the only response you'll get is fits of giggles), and battery backup is extremely expensive. The world's total solar power capacity is roughly equivalent to one unit of your average coal-fired power station. And while solar cells are large maintenance free, solar thermal power, which the people who've looked into the issue generally regard as a more serious solution, is not.

      Please go away and actually do some research into the costs of the various energy options, and you might appreciate why research into carbon capture and storage is money well spent.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by loshwomp (468955)
        [solar energy is] only available 12 hours a day [...] and battery backup is extremely expensive

        Those two tired-old bullshit arguments won't matter until there is more solar capacity online than we can use in real time, which won't happen for two decades under even the most favorable set of assumptions.
      • by vertinox (846076)
        How many batteries and solar panels can you buy for $1.8 billion dollars?
      • Re:Sure... (Score:4, Funny)

        by edwardpickman (965122) on Sunday February 03, 2008 @07:32PM (#22285926)
        And it's only available 12 hours a day

        Then obviously we should be devoting the funds to stopping Earth's rotation. With the US facing the Sun 24/7 we get 24 hours of solar power and more hours for crops to grow for biofuels. It'd also save us a fortune in lighting at night and allow for an unlimited work day. Seems like a win win.

      • Re:Sure... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Swampash (1131503) on Sunday February 03, 2008 @08:04PM (#22286112)
        Please go away and actually do some research into the costs of the various energy options

        I live in Australia. I have solar panels on my roof at home. The installation costs were subsidised by the Federal Government. My panels generate more power than I actually use, and the excess is fed back into the grid at a credit, so the power company ends up owing me money at the end of the year.

        You were saying?
    • Oh, except that congress just cut all funding for ITER [forbes.com] , the international thermonuclear experimental (fusion) reactor.

      So no fusion, no coal, no basic research. It's all oil all the time.

  • No big deal. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Ralph Spoilsport (673134) on Sunday February 03, 2008 @05:42PM (#22285138) Journal
    Clean coal isn't. Pumping CO2 underground is not a permanent solution. The Actual Solution is: STOP USING FOSSIL FUELS. NOW.

    If you can't / won't do it NOW, then the long emergency will get longer. And Darker. No, it's not the end of the world. It's just a new world we won't recognise, and one that won't likely permit 7 billion people shitting all over it.

    You can buy a shit load of grid tied windmills for 1.8 billion dollars...

    RS

    • Re:No big deal. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by RealGrouchy (943109) on Sunday February 03, 2008 @05:46PM (#22285166)

      You can buy a shit load of grid tied windmills for 1.8 billion dollars...
      Yes, but the fact is coal companies (who were supporting this FutureGen project) probably wouldn't.

      - RG>
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by zerogeewhiz (73483)
        They might have been *supporting* it but they weren't *paying* for it. So you're right, but it was the government's money that was being pissed up against the wall. That 1.8bn would be much better spent on a no carbon wind or solar farm.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Rayonic (462789)

      Pumping CO2 underground is not a permanent solution. The Actual Solution is: STOP USING FOSSIL FUELS. NOW.

      Burning Fossil Fuels = pumping CO2 from underground.

      So what's wrong with putting the extra CO2 back where it came from? Assuming we have an effective method for doing so, of course.
      • So what's wrong with putting the extra CO2 back where it came from?
        Because you're relying on fuels that are becoming increasingly scarce. It's clean, but will it serve our needs for the next 50 years?
    • Re:No big deal. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by v1 (525388) on Sunday February 03, 2008 @05:56PM (#22285252) Homepage Journal
      You can buy a shit load of grid tied windmills for 1.8 billion dollars

      I must say you have a very good point there.

      I wonder why they don't find something more constructive to do with all that CO2? Plants use water and sun to split CO2 and release O2, why can't we either make something that does that, or use plants to do it for us? I don't know, something like a giant version of what looks like a waste treatment plant. (with the large covered pools)

      Is the rate of absorption too slow for that, where they'd need an unreasonably large biomass, or what's the problem?

      Pumping CO2 undergound to get rid of it is about as forward-thinking as landfills. Burying it doesn't make it go away, it just makes it resurface well after you're dead. (and your elections are over)
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by lee1026 (876806)
        Well, for one thing, it would require a rather large amount of energy to turn CO2 into O2 and C. More then you would get from burning the coal in the first place, so it is rather counter productive.
      • Is the rate of absorption too slow for that, where they'd need an unreasonably large biomass, or what's the problem?

        The problem is the need for a huge amount of biomass and huge amount of energy to keep the process going. (For instance, here in the US Pacific Northwest, you'll need considerable heating capacity for a good chunk of the year.)
      • I wonder why they don't find something more constructive to do with all that CO2?

        Can't we just double carbonate our soda drinks? Problem solved.

        Jolt Cola: All the sugar and twice the caffeine. Now with double the green-house gases.

        • by init100 (915886)

          Jolt Cola: All the sugar and twice the caffeine. Now with double the green-house gases.

          And you can add: Directly from our "clean" coal power stations.

      • We are using plants to absorb CO2 from power plant effluent, I don't have the URL handy but one experimental plant in Arizona had to be shut down because the algae the were growing grew too well and clogged up the works. algae can be up to 50% oil which can be used for food oil or biodeisel. using the oil for biodeisel isn't exactly carbon neutral but it's better than burn coal for electicity then still burning petro-deisel for transportaion. The only draw-back is the plants only absorb CO2 during the day.
    • YOU FIRST! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Sunday February 03, 2008 @06:24PM (#22285418)
      Good idea. And since it is your idea, you go first. No gas heat or fossil-fuel-generated electricity, no fossil-fuel automobile, no snow blower, snowmobile, dirt bike, lawnmower, and no... plastics.

      As of NOW.

      Have a nice day. :o)
    • You can buy a shit load of grid tied windmills for 1.8 billion dollars...

      Sure - but that won't actually noticeably decrease pollution and CO2 release once you factor in the need to keep some other form of generation in hot standby for when the wind isn't blowing.
    • by PCM2 (4486)

      Clean coal isn't. Pumping CO2 underground is not a permanent solution.

      Yes, it should be obvious to all patriotic Americans that the real solution is to pump the excess CO2 into water. In fact, many of the refreshing soft beverages currently available on your grocer's shelves, including the entire flavor line of Coca-Cola brand beverage products, contain significantly more carbonation than most sparkling water. When you drink beverages that contain still/non-sparkling water, the terrorists win. Have a Coke

  • by nizo (81281) *
    So the cost increased by just slightly more than the Iraq war is costing us every three days? That says magnitudes doesn't it?
  • by Eric Smith (4379) * <eric.brouhaha@com> on Sunday February 03, 2008 @05:47PM (#22285172) Homepage Journal
    I don't know the details of their plan, but it seems unlikely to me that there can be any realistic expectation that when you pump CO2 into the ground, however deep, that it's going to stay there.

    In the 1960s, Rocky Mountain Arsenal tried to get rid of waste by pumping it into the ground. When they started doing that, there was an increase in seismic activity in the region, including several earthquakes that caused significant damage. When they finally stopped doing it, the seismic activity tapered off.

    • Yes, there can (Score:5, Informative)

      by Goonie (8651) <robert,merkel&benambra,org> on Sunday February 03, 2008 @05:51PM (#22285216) Homepage
      The scientists who are working on this give several reasons as to why it's plausible.

      If you're pumping the CO2 into a depleted gas field, that gas field captured natural gas for many millions of years. Another type of disposal site that's been proposed is deep saline acquifers, in which case the CO2 will dissolve in the water, which has also stayed where it is for millions of years.

      Finally, if you're really paranoid there's mineral sequestration, where you react the CO2 with various types of rock to form carbonates, which are very stable compounds (they're rocks, basically).

  • Why it was cancelled (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jeffgtr (929361) on Sunday February 03, 2008 @06:10PM (#22285314)
    I live near the site Futuregen was to be built. There was fierce competition between Illinois and Texas for the location of the plant. Illinois was chosen based on science not politics. I have heard that Bush was furious that Texas was not chosen, pulled a few strings and the project was cancelled. From what I have read this was a technology that would work and let us take advantage of the abundant coal supplies without damaging the environment.
    • by Kidbro (80868)
      I have heard that Bush was furious that Texas was not chosen, pulled a few strings and the project was cancelled.

      If there is any truth to that rumour, that alone is reason enough to drag the man out on the streets and put him up against a wall. Not to mention the rest of the hideous crimes he has committed. Why on earth have the american public - one which is so proud of its supposed ability to take down a corrupt government - not executed this man yet?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Fantastic Lad (198284)
        Why on earth have the american public - one which is so proud of its supposed ability to take down a corrupt government - not executed this man yet?

        I think it says much about the success of the social conditioning of the American people. After all else is said and done, one can measure the effects of mind control simply by looking at the end results. I think this was even noted somewhere in the bible using an agriculture analogy concerning fruit.


        -FL

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ScentCone (795499)
      I have heard that Bush was furious that Texas was not chosen, pulled a few strings and the project was cancelled.

      Please link to the source of this fact. Or, consider the possibility that it's just a bunch of shrill nonsense being passed around by someone suffering from classic BDS. Read up a thread or two, and consider the fact that the notion of this approach has already been completely eclipsed by other developments.
  • ...of oil. The point is to start using clean "something". Let's use some clean coal. And maybe a few windmills. And build some solar panels and tidal force power plants. And some nuclear power plants. And cultivate the seas for algae, while growing various biofuels on the earth. Let's do it all, and let market forces decide which ones stick (hint: it'll probably be a combination of some of the above).
  • In the other news - the defense budget is biggest since WWII.
  • One of the reasons it's been an American policy to keep Cuba under embargo is because they are a symbol of success without American support in the Western Hemisphere. Originally, I think, military planners were genuinely scared of the ideological impact of a successful Cuba, despite the fact that they were no more propped up from Russia than Japan was from the United States. Now, businesses, mostly in the aeronautical and arms industries prop up the failed foreign policies of the 60s through the 80s in orde
    • by c6gunner (950153)

      One of the reasons it's been an American policy to keep Cuba under embargo is because they are a symbol of success without American support in the Western Hemisphere.

      HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA!!!!!!!!

      Oh....my...god....

      I'm wiping away tears here!

      It's one of the reasons Cubans live far longer than Americans.

      Cuban life expectancy: 77.08
      American life Expectancy: 78.2

      You really need to check your sources of propaganda, boy.

      Thanks for the laughs!

      • So you're getting all excited about a statistical tie, when we're spending $6700 per head and they're spending $251? Not to mention the fact that they have an infant mortality rate that's lower...

        Hmm... keep the blinders on. I guess you wouldn't know what to do without them.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by c6gunner (950153)

          So you're getting all excited about a statistical tie, when we're spending $6700 per head and they're spending $251? Not to mention the fact that they have an infant mortality rate that's lower...

          From Overpopulation.com [overpopulation.com]:

          Recently released statistics on the infant mortality rate in the Western hemisphere yielded an odd conclusions -- Cuba's infant mortality rate, 16 6.0 per 1,000, is now lower than the U.S. infant mortality rate, at 7.2 per 1,000. Given Cuba's poverty level, its 6.0 rate is very impressi

    • Cuba under Castro? Part of western civilization?? LOL

      Aside from its own supply, Cuba gets oil from Venezuela. Cuba, a country of 11 million people, consumes 200,000 barrels of oil per day. That's a lot, given they only have a few cars and a sorry economy of the country.

      Also, your claim about their life expectancy being higher than the US is wrong.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_life_expectancy [wikipedia.org]

      Please find me your statistic that disputes the above.

      Cuba is an oppressive dictatorship. We need
  • Mole Men (Score:4, Funny)

    by saxoholic (992773) on Sunday February 03, 2008 @07:00PM (#22285696)
    Thank God the goverment had the foresight to cancel this project. Although it may have helped stop climate change, it would have flooded the underground with CO2, causing angry mole-men to declare war on us surface dwellers. I am thankful to delay the welcoming of our mole-men overloards.
  • by victorvodka (597971) on Sunday February 03, 2008 @08:15PM (#22286152) Homepage
    It takes energy to sequester carbon dioxide, and if the energy that this takes is as great as the energy to unsequester it (that is, to release it from coal), then there is no point in burning it because the effect of burning and sequestering it yields a net energy return of zero. So far I've seen no presentations of the efficiency of sequestration. Seeing as how corn ethanol has a net energy yield of less than zero, I'm dubious about sequestration and, until I learn otherwise, will assume it's a big "kick the ball down the road" diversion, like hydrogen cars. I really wish there were more writers familiar with thermodynamics writing about these things. When it comes to energy schemes, it's not just the thought that counts.

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