Former military leaders call for 30% cut in oil consumption
November 1st, 2011
10:14 PM ET

Former military leaders call for 30% cut in oil consumption

By Charley Keyes

Osama bin Laden may have left a clue about one of the West's greatest vulnerabilities: reliance on oil imports.

"When we killed bin Laden, we saw oil tanker designs on his work desk," Gen. James Conway, the former Marine Corps commandant, said in a report released late Tuesday.

Conway was part of a group of 11 recently retired three- and four-star generals and admirals who prepared a report on American energy dependence as a national security threat.

In the report, Conway said that an oil tanker attack might now be beyond al Qaeda's capabilities, but the intent was clear.

He and the other military leaders said oil imports are directly linked to security, and that political compromise and resolve are necessary to slash demand by 30% within 10 years. Present circumstances give other countries or terrorists too much power to choke off oil supplies and cripple the U.S. economy, they say.

"Weaning America from oil in substantive ways will make us safer as a nation," the report says. "The pace and consistency of our country's movement along the path to energy security is a vital national security challenge."

The report was released by the military advisory board of CNA, a nonprofit research organization that operates the Center for Naval Analyses and the Institute for Public Research, according to its website. It will be presented Wednesday to members of Congress who make up the defense, energy and security caucus.

Retired U.S. Army Gen. Paul Kern, the chairman of the group that debated and wrote the report, said Tuesday that too often the energy debate only focuses on short-term concerns, with long-term goals postponed.

"The time has come," Gen Kern told CNN. We can't put this off anymore."

The report warns that even with strategic oil reserves, a major oil supply disruption would affect every aspect of life.

"We have seen how oil can be used as a weapon to attack our national security," the report says."We know this; our policy makers know this; our enemies know this."

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Filed under: Al Qaeda • Living With Terror • Military • Osama bin Laden • Terrorism
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  14. DI8511

    General Conway is a very intelligent man as are the other members of this pannel. I have worked for the man for years and there is not a political bone in his body. In my experience he tells it like it is period. As a Marine, when he spoke others listened. Our dependence on foreign oil is a critical vulnerablity and it is time we took actions to break that. Imagine the chaos that would ensue if even one large oiltanker was capured and run aground. The economic and ecological damage would be immense. First order of effect would be the cost of oil skyrocketing to new heights, second would be the damage caused by the oil spill, and so on, and so on. The costs would be incalculable to not only the U.S. but the world as a whole. Electric cars, nuclear power, domestic oil and the like are just a start. The bottom line is, we need a major paradigm shift in the U.S. In other words; A whole new way of life. Change can be painful, perhaps it's time to take the pain.

    December 8, 2011 at 3:40 pm | Reply
  15. Rick


    Drill baby Drill..Theres plenty in the US.. The ignorant sheep in this country that listens to the Government lies about the amount of oil and natual gas US can produce deserves to drive a electric car.

    November 2, 2011 at 7:21 am | Reply
  16. brown

    America, you got exactly what you voted for ... incompetence!

    Keep on re-electing your Congress, one day it will cost you your life.

    November 2, 2011 at 1:31 am | Reply
  17. Mark C

    Why would an oil tanker attack be beyond their capability? Poorly financed and equipped pirates hijack them off the coast of Somalia all the time.

    November 2, 2011 at 1:30 am | Reply
    • Emma

      Curt – We had such a great time with you, Magnus! This picture is beiutaful and we can't wait to see the others after you've done your magic. Great work as always!

      April 6, 2012 at 10:24 pm | Reply
  18. whocares

    SEGS->Carbazole and Natural Gas-> Carbazole cycles

    November 2, 2011 at 1:05 am | Reply
  19. dirtydog1776

    America does not have a right to cheap gas. For years the government has fought to keep oil prices down, ignoring the long term consequences that came from fighting the market forces that dictated the need for prices to rise and break our dependency on foreign imports.

    Right now we are struggling with the high cost of oil dependency, which in a free market, we would have began to break free of 40 years ago.

    Classical economics, which is not very popular today, dictates that as a resource becomes scarcer, one of three things will happen as prices rise: People will use less of that resource, find alternatives or use it more efficiently, which in many ways are only short term remedies.

    Higher prices equal higher profits (yes high profits can be useful in an unregulated market) which can stimulate more production or induce others to find and use alternative sources. The government is now attempting to entice people to use alternative energy sources with regulations, subsidies and other mandates that do not work or distort the true market cost. (The recent green energy loan scandals are just one part of this mess.) Political means cannot effectively make economic decisions.

    The basic answer is for the government to stop trying to save us from higher energy costs with regulations that do not work and keep us dependent on oil.

    Follow this free market pooch, dirtydog1776, on Twitter. Free market economics can be painful but in the long run, provide the best solutions.

    November 2, 2011 at 1:04 am | Reply
    • Rick

      Drill baby Drill..Theres plenty in the US.. The ignorant sheep in this country that listens to the Government lies about the amount of oil and natual gas US can produce deserves to drive a electric car.

      November 2, 2011 at 7:20 am | Reply
      • eb

        you must work for a coal or oil company. there are limited resources in the US, it isn't enough for us to cut off our dependency.

        November 3, 2011 at 11:19 pm |
  20. Rod C. Venger

    Computers and the internet are also national security risks. Perhaps even larger than the risk of running a tanker aground. Do we stop using computers and networks to control our infrastructure? GPS is imbedded in nearly every aspect of military activities as well as civilian air transport. GPS can be easily jammed. Do we stop using GPS too?

    These generals are being used as someone's puppets. Who do you suppose holds the marionette's strings?

    November 2, 2011 at 1:03 am | Reply
    • Mark C

      You really are an imbecile.

      November 2, 2011 at 1:27 am | Reply
    • Candycakes

      Let's abandon national security because it doesn't fit your political view. Thanks, stupid.

      November 2, 2011 at 1:50 am | Reply
    • eb

      That argument is devoid of logic. Using the internet, or the phone, or talking to your neighbor over the fence is not a national security threat. no one is flying a drone over your house looking for you so you can put your tin hat away.

      November 3, 2011 at 11:21 pm | Reply
      • Avielyn

        A lot of people might blame the oil coapmnies for what is happening to this town, but is it really their fault? I mean, any company would do whatever is in their power to make as much money as possible and the only thing this company did was take advantage of a town, which let them take advantage. The town made a decision, even though it was a bad one and they just now started to realize it, they got themselves where they are now. Of course, I am not saying this is right or ethical in any way possible, but is what was expected when the town made the decision they made. This includes the people in the communication department for the oil company who created the website making it seem like there are plenty of jobs available and houses and everything. Misleading people this way is completely wrong and unethical and something should be done about it. In the other hand, people should also do better research before heading blindly to this town.

        March 2, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
  21. dirtydog1776

    These Generals are not very smart. They are just now figuring out what any intelligent person knew 40 years ago.

    November 2, 2011 at 12:46 am | Reply
    • Pointless1

      Than why hasn't it been taken advantage of more seriously than ever before? DBAG know it all wanna be is what you come off like .. I bet the only service you have done for this country is serve us breakfast at the IHOP...

      November 2, 2011 at 12:57 am | Reply
    • Zach

      They know that 40 years ago but nobody else was listening; I applaud them by coming forward with an official report to present.

      November 2, 2011 at 1:00 am | Reply
  22. Zippy

    Where the U.S. get's it's oil from:
    Hint: Less than 20% comes from the Persian Gulf

    November 2, 2011 at 12:37 am | Reply
    • Calikidinked

      You realize that a tanker need not be from the Persian gulf to be hijacked or attacked....buffoon

      November 2, 2011 at 1:41 am | Reply
    • eb

      Persian Gulf yes, but you aren't factoring in OPEC which includes Saudi. It isn't about just the Middle East, it's about using resources that can jeopardize our national security and sovereignty. Do you really want Chavez holding it over us?

      November 3, 2011 at 11:24 pm | Reply
  23. Scott

    The Military needs to not only cut oil use, but request more money or allocate some of the money we were spending oversees towards researching more efficient energy technology. If the military starts to hand out more contracts, more scholarships, as well as better interning programs and more of them, not only will our young work force be that much more educated in these areas, the private sector will follow like it has repeatedly in the past, and produce aftermarket versions of these technologies. Also, more research into extracting fossil fuel from shale deposits will be a short term solution to lessoning our foreign dependence on oil, and the outflow of American cash to foreign countries and Arab princes.

    November 2, 2011 at 12:35 am | Reply
    • eb

      Agree wholeheartedly. The US military is one of the few actors that can overcome the Oil lobby.

      November 3, 2011 at 11:25 pm | Reply
  24. JohnRJohnson

    The GOP wants to increase "domestic" oil production, which they say will reduce our dependence Mideast oil. Of course, that is false. The oil companies that drill for oil anywhere in the United States or off its shores are a transnational corporations. They pay the US for drilling rights, but the oil goes to international cartels. We may end up using most of that oil, but the profits go to these multi-national companies, which have no loyalty to anything but their own bottom lines. "Drill, baby, drill" was one of the most asinine mottos any politician ever came up with, because all it does is perpetuate the myth that drilling for more oil here will make the US less dependent on Mideast oil. From now until it runs, the vast majority of all crude will come from the Mideast. Even if we drilled every square inch of the US, we wouldn't be able to touch the output of the Mideast oil producers. We need to develop technologies which get us off fossil fuels entirely, for the good of our national security, our economy and the health of the planet.

    November 2, 2011 at 12:34 am | Reply
    • Bob

      Say the US needs 'x' barrels of oil. We produce 'a,' buy 'b' from non-Mideast sources, and 'c' from the Middle East. a + b +c = x. So if 'a' goes up, 'c' will go down. We should develop non-petroleum energy sources. But until we have those sources, will still need oil. Refusing to produce the oil for our present needs because we shouldn't need it will not help the present situation, nor will it help other forms of energy to appear.

      November 2, 2011 at 12:49 am | Reply
    • Tom

      Love the idea of getting off fossil fuels. Would you be for nuclear power? I am personally for all aspects of increasing energy production in the West. I think we should 'drill, baby, drill' as a short term solution to the need for oil. I applaud the Obama administrations increase in the average mile per gallon requirements on vehicles by 2025 (need to prevent Congress from listening to the lobbyists and preventing this regulation). I am for more nuclear power to supply both our current energy needs but also those of the new electric cars that will hopefully replace gas cars. I applaud the efforts of such auto companies as Tesla motors which has developed a good electric car that has been steadily decreasing in cost and should in the next two or three years be affordable for most Americans. I urge other American auto manufactures to get with the program and develop their own alternative energy hybrids and electric cars. I like alternative energy sources such as wind, solar, etc. and think the US government should continue to fund these start up companies despite problems like Solyendra (sp?) Anyway, the solution to energy independence is not one thing, but a combination of all these things. American and the West needs energy independence for its national security and its economy so we do not continue to send money to foreign nations and spend blood defending corrupt dictatorships like Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. America has traditionally been isolationist and it is time the US returns to that policy.

      November 2, 2011 at 7:20 am | Reply
  25. disco_fever

    Being a petroleum engineer does not make you an authority on domestic and north american oil capabilities. It only takes a little bit of reading to know we could become largely energy independent within 20 years by tapping restircted oil fields locally.

    November 2, 2011 at 12:22 am | Reply
    • MJMullinII

      Nothing but internet rumor tripe.

      November 2, 2011 at 12:50 am | Reply
    • Tempo36

      The US has approximately 21 billion barrels of proven oil that we can reach.

      According to the CIA we use 19 million barrels per day.

      Therefore if we could pull all the oil out of the ground instantly we would be energy independent for ~3 years.

      Three. Years.

      Even if you go with the higher figure that estimates that there may be up to 134 billion barrels of recoverable but as-yet unproven/unfound oil in the US, that would give us 18 years. If we could get it all out of the ground instantly.

      Please read that again and then tell us all how drilling in the United States is going to produce energy independence and free us from foreign oil.

      November 2, 2011 at 1:41 am | Reply
  26. UtahProf

    The stupidity of this is amazing ... every global power in the world is as vulnerable as we are – and not that we shouldn't aggressively move towards energy independence but calling it a "national security threat" is a bit much. If you want the REAL vulnerability, imagine what would happen if China simply said tomorrow that it would no longer export goods to the US.

    November 2, 2011 at 12:22 am | Reply
    • eb

      but it's a start, why discount it? Our policies need an overhaul, including paying off our debt load to China.

      November 3, 2011 at 11:29 pm | Reply
  27. mgc6288

    Good luck with that. Oil is everywhere and in everything. It is a fossil fuel that cannot be replaced in the near future. Watch Ruppert's "Collapse" move and you'll see what peak oil is about.

    November 2, 2011 at 12:21 am | Reply
  28. Dave

    it'll never happen

    November 1, 2011 at 11:45 pm | Reply
  29. 1templar

    The generals cannot breach the political line while they are on active duty.
    They are trying to warn the public of a potential conflict coming. The oil tankers are not only a tempting target for El Quida, they are targets for a country which has sophisticated surface to surface anti ship missles.
    Learn to read between the lines.

    November 1, 2011 at 11:44 pm | Reply
    • Chazo

      Who is El Quida?

      November 2, 2011 at 12:21 am | Reply
      • JB

        Al Qaeda's retarded half-cousin

        November 2, 2011 at 12:34 am |
    • eb

      oh good lord, not everything is a freaking conspiracy.

      November 3, 2011 at 11:31 pm | Reply
      • Reynante

        We know intellectually that the Creation is fnitie. We know that as stewards of what we have we need to make our lives match the resources we have been given in a way that ensures their sustainability. Acting on that knowledge requires choosing a different life than the one fuelled by cheap oil, and like most addicts, we will have to hit bottom before personal and societal change will happen.Sadly, bottom is when the resource we most rely upon, oil, will be too expensive to use, and we will need it to transition to a sustainable economy.Of course I am not without my own denial behaviour. I'm just back from Phoenix, visiting my Mom and taking some holiday time. I flew down there, rented a hybrid car (sort of like lite beer for an alcoholic), and with my huge carbon foot, stomped all over the countryside sightseeing.What I saw was overwhelming. Few places are as unsustainable as southern Arizona. Scarce water is used for grass, there is no recycling to speak of, and single occupant SUVs and trucks are everywhere. Our sprawl would be considered high density in the Phoenix area. When the price of oil goes past $200 a barrel the place could shrivel up and return to its natural state. One can not walk to stores or even to a bus stop, when they finally get them, in 45C (and rising) summers. Residents will become pedestrians of the night.

        March 3, 2012 at 2:25 am |
  30. jimbo

    When the oil embargo happened in 1973 Nixon and friends kissed asses all over the middle east and got the spigots turned back on. The Arab producers lined their pockets with money and we got gasoline. Instead of making an effort to lower consumption we just went right on doing what we do, living the American dream, aka ignoring an opportunity to actually change the world by moving away from oil. Maybe we could get a group of teens to text our way into some new oil free life.

    November 1, 2011 at 11:36 pm | Reply
  31. disco_fever

    Wen cannot turn off the oil spigot tomorrow. Everyone knows this. At present, there are no technologies (even under development) that will prove to be a silver bullet for our energy needs. What is so hard to understand that we must dramatically increase domestic oil production while investing in multiple alternative energies? I don't understand peoples problem with this.

    November 1, 2011 at 11:36 pm | Reply
    • spyguy68

      What part of ....

      There is no oil left in the US to drill ...

      Is so hard for you to understand?

      Right now the US has to import 75% of the oil it uses and if every square yard of the US was drilled, that requirement would ONLY go down to 70%. Yes if we drilled every corner of the US an ignored all the environmental damage, we could only meet an additional 5% of our needs (while killing our way of life).

      November 1, 2011 at 11:53 pm | Reply
      • disco_fever

        Are you delusional? Have you read anything about our untapped energy capabilities within our direct jurisdiction? Please stop spreading such ludicrous statements – I am afraid people will believe you.

        November 2, 2011 at 12:06 am |
      • Seabass

        Not that I don't believe you, but do you have any evidence to back that up?

        November 2, 2011 at 12:10 am |
      • Roscoe

        This is pure rubbish. While we probably can't support our present oil needs completely we can do a lot more especially if we opened up ANWR and started to switch to natural gas. We have plenty of natural gas in the lower 48 but if you add in the huge natural gas reserves in the North Slope fields we could power ourselves for generations.

        November 2, 2011 at 12:23 am |
      • JT

        Spyguy is correct. There isn't enough oil in the US or any of its possessions. ANWAR's estimated total wouldn't supply the US for more than a year or two. Even if there were great quantities of oil, it would be owned by multinational corporations, which are going to sell where they want. China and India are the world's largest countries in population and two of the world's fastest-growning economies. Think of the all the oil they'll need in 10 or 15 years. I can't quote the source but during a documentary I heard by 2030 there will be as many cars in China as there are in the world today. These generals recognize that we need to do more with less oil. That means more conservation. More innovation and, hopefully, less pollution. My guess is that in 25 years the effects of global warming will be a much greater issue than oil. Just recently one of the GW debunkers has admitted GW is influenced by man's activities. Of course, the world will continue to do nothing.

        November 2, 2011 at 12:54 am |
      • Tempo36


        The US has approximately 21 billion barrels of proven oil that we can reach.

        According to the CIA we use 19 million barrels per day.

        Therefore if we could pull all the oil out of the ground instantly we would be energy independent for ~3 years.

        Three. Years.

        Even if you go with the higher figure that estimates that there may be up to 134 billion barrels of recoverable but as-yet unproven/unfound oil in the US, that would give us 18 years. If we could get it all out of the ground instantly.

        Please read that again and then tell us all how drilling in the United States is going to produce energy independence and free us from foreign oil.

        November 2, 2011 at 1:44 am |
  32. Steve

    We have plenty of Natural Gas. We could convert in 5 to 10 years but the oil industry keeps pushing the Electric Cars because they know electric is not a viable solution.
    The best candidates are: Buses (see Orange County in CA), truck fleets like UPS, FEDEX, USPS. Obviously, we need a set Natural Gas stations installed in the proper locations. A Natural Gas spill doesn't pollute the land or the oceans.
    Electric cars are nice for local commuting and grocery shopping.

    November 1, 2011 at 11:29 pm | Reply
    • Roscoe

      Natural gas is the only reasonable short term solution. The liberals are hung up on wind and solar and only support ethanol because the corn lobby is lining their pockets. Obama could instantly change the course of history by mandating that all new government vehicle be capable of running on natural gas as well as gas or diesel. That would start the ball rolling and you'd see oil prices drop immediately.

      November 1, 2011 at 11:46 pm | Reply
      • Dan

        Yes. It's all on Obama. Now why hasn't any Republican president done this in the past? Oh yeah, your last boy was an oil tycoon.

        November 2, 2011 at 1:17 am |
    • spyguy68

      Who is going to pay for the complete replacement of the existing energy infrastructure that has been built over the last 150 years?

      Private industry will not do it unless there is a guaranteed profit and republicans don't want to spend tax dollars to do it.

      So, it will not be built until the oil runs out and we are all starving (95%+ of your food requires diesel to get to you)

      November 1, 2011 at 11:56 pm | Reply
      • Roscoe

        It wouldn't be a complete replacement of infrastructure, it would be an addition. Natural gas could easily be dispensed at existing gas stations and once the government signaled a shift in priorities private enterprise would jump in with both feet. There's huge profit potential with the added benefit of keeping our dollars here at home and creating a significant number of new jobs. This would be a complete game changer for the economy as a whole.

        November 2, 2011 at 12:14 am |
    • Tom

      Electric cars are a viable option within the next two to three years. Tesla motors produced a good electric car, meaning it has a good reasonable range on a charge and offers decent performance, for $100,000 a few years ago. Just recently, they halved the cost of their electric car to $50,000, which is the cost of most luxury cars. They promise to have an even more affordable electric car in the $20,000 range in the next two to three years. Tesla motors is doing a remarkable job of making the electric car a viable option. Other American car companies can do the same thing.

      November 2, 2011 at 7:26 am | Reply
  33. Jim Leach

    Duh! That is what we engineers have been says for decades!

    November 1, 2011 at 11:28 pm | Reply
  34. Timetraveler

    Notice how it's always the "former" this and the "former" that who'll come out long after retirement and say what they've always known to be the right thing. But they'll never say it or do it when they are in a position that actually has the authority to make it happen. Thanks for nothing cowards.

    November 1, 2011 at 11:28 pm | Reply
    • Nextthought

      What you say does happen, but in this case they just retired this year. Also, they were members of the military and not politicians, so they did not have the power to make this happen. While the were active duty it would have been problematic and probably inappropriate to publish a politically sensitive report such as this.

      November 1, 2011 at 11:44 pm | Reply
      • jimbo

        If they retired recently and they are making this public statement then they are probably getting ready to campaign for some political office.

        November 2, 2011 at 12:03 am |
    • Mark C

      You really are an imbecile if you think generals have any sort of "authority" to move the US away from petroleum.

      November 2, 2011 at 1:32 am | Reply
    • Tom

      Generals and military personnel are restricted by military regulations from making political statements while in uniform. You just have to look at the example of General MacArthur to see the dangers of a General making political comments while in uniform. These Generals have commented as soon as they possibly could. They are warning the West of very real dangers. The West should listen. The West needs to be energy independent and energy independent as soon as possible.

      November 2, 2011 at 7:46 am | Reply
  35. WhoEver

    Oh yeah, the loony liberals will just love this...

    November 1, 2011 at 11:27 pm | Reply
    • mfx3

      as a liberal, i love this. mostly because, as usual, we were right all along.

      November 1, 2011 at 11:53 pm | Reply
  36. Timothy

    This "story" is 35 years old.

    November 1, 2011 at 11:26 pm | Reply
  37. JoeT

    Yup, just a bunch of them granola-crunching, tree-hugging, damn hippee armed forces generals telling us to go green– what they would they know anyways?

    November 1, 2011 at 11:24 pm | Reply
    • Steve

      I laughed quite heartily. Thank you for that.

      November 1, 2011 at 11:29 pm | Reply
    • mike

      The left wing nut jobs and the right wing morons are both wrong. Why the false choices, we should have more domestic production that is taxed and a research fund set up for renewable energy research. Sounds so simple and yet neither extreme can get out of its self imposed box to push America forward. What a shame.

      November 1, 2011 at 11:46 pm | Reply
    • Tom

      Both the left wing loonies and the right wing nut jobs are wrong. American does need energy independence and as soon as it can get it. This will allow America and the West to be isolationist and save American money and blood. A true energy independence program involves not one solution but doing many solutions. America needs to drill, baby, drill to meet short term needs, but it also needs to work to cut consumption by manufacturing alternative energy vehicles (the technology is already there folks!) that significantly reduce gas consumption. America also needs to increase nuclear power while investing in alternative energy sources such as solar and wind and researching newer technologies. The West really needs to get with the program! We have essentially wasted 10 years fighting wars in the Middle East for oil. Time is running out before America cannot afford to do these things.

      November 2, 2011 at 7:37 am | Reply
  38. YourMom

    Oh yeah, the pea party will just love this...

    November 1, 2011 at 11:03 pm | Reply
    • disco_fever

      You are simply showing your ignorance. The Tea Party wants energy independence based on domestic oil production and alternative energies. It is a two part approach versus the liberal stance that wants to somehow shift to alternative sources yesterday. This the tea party has correct and more people need to realize it and fast.

      November 1, 2011 at 11:24 pm | Reply
      • Steve

        The Tea Party's "solution" to the liberal stance has been, rather than compromising, to simply block any forward progress at all. It's not hard to see why people would have the impression that they're in the pocket of oil companies.

        November 1, 2011 at 11:29 pm |
      • disco_fever

        huh? First of all, what are your sources? Secondly, liberals for decades have been regulating (and downright preventing) the hell out of oil production domestically.

        November 1, 2011 at 11:38 pm |
      • Bill

        "The Tea Party wants energy independence based on domestic oil production and alternative energies." – Unfortunately, domestic production of petroleum passed its point of peak production sometime in the 1970s. Existing reserves will not suffice current and future US demand. Unless massive new reserves totaling in a few hundred billion barrels are found, the only option would be to continue imports or move towards alternate fuels or alternate means of transportation. Such a quantum of new reserves in the US are nearly impossible. Petroleum supplies 97% of transport energy and 1% of electrical power generation. A Move to an alternate transportation fuel like nat gas or cellulosic ethanol (instead of corn based) is the solution.
        – A petroleum & electrical engineer.

        November 2, 2011 at 12:11 am |
      • lead

        The "liberals" have seen the problem coming for decades. 40 years of more pumping and polluting and only miniscule movement toward permanent energy independence. Oil companies only want profit now. They care nothing for national security or the future.

        November 2, 2011 at 12:16 am |

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