Roper: Unintended consequences of climate plan coming clear

By Rob Roper

The Climate Council’s job is to figure out how to reduce Vermont’s greenhouse gas emissions to mandated levels set out in the Global Warming Solutions Act. Period. That’s all. They are not concerned with the fallout — economic and otherwise — that will occur if we do all the things necessary to meet that goal. This sad fact was on full display during the Cross Sector Mitigation Subcommittee meeting on Nov. 4.

Rob Roper is the president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

One big unintended — though not unforeseeable — consequence of pushing Vermonters into electric vehicles (over 40,000 by 2025) will be a loss of gas tax revenue, which we use to pay for our road and bridge maintenance. So, what’s the plan to make up that revenue? Not our job, says the council. Maybe not, but somebody better have an answer before we start buying people Priuses with the taxpayer money that used to be used to maintain the roads those Priuses still have to drive on.

Another unintended consequence has to do with Vermont’s labor force. The Climate Action Plan will require the state to weatherize 90,000 homes between now and the end of the decade, a task that council members are quick to point out needs to take place in conjunction with other mandated home changes, such as the installation of 200,000 electric heat pumps.

This is likely to be logistically impossible. As Christine Donovan notes (56:00), “Any number that’s in the scale that we’ve been discussing today or previously is going to continue to be of grave concern for people who right now are directly involved with the delivery of weatherization work, and are challenged to see a pathway where we could actually deliver this scale of weatherization and have a prepared workforce capable of delivering that. … I don’t think any of us know how we’ll solve that problem.”

Donovan’s remarks were shrugged off. Not our problem! If that’s the number that gets us to our mandated goal, that’s the number we’re putting forward in the plan whether or not it has any basis in reality. If the Legislature cares to take logistical realities into account, they can come up with another plan.

But what the council did not consider at all is what impact this proposal would have on the private sector labor supply for things such as building new housing stock, or ordinary home maintenance such as repairing roofs, fixing frozen pipes, unclogging plumbing, etc. What happens when the government conscripts our entire force of skilled labor for such projects into its monomaniacal war on fossil fuel use? It’s hard enough to get a plumber, an electrician or a carpenter as it is. What are you going to do when the government has them all working non-stop installing heat pumps nobody wants and EV charging stations for cars that don’t exist?

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute. Reprinted with permission from the Ethan Allen Institute Blog.

Image courtesy of Vermont Agency of Natural Resources
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10 thoughts on “Roper: Unintended consequences of climate plan coming clear

  1. Unintended?

    “Unforeseen and being ignorant about” is more likely.

    LAY folks have practically NO IDEA about the ALL-IN cost of wind, solar and batteries and of PHEV/EVs and HEAT PUMPS.

    Here is an example

    EXCERPT from:

    ELECTRIC TRANSIT AND SCHOOL BUS SYSTEMS REDUCE LITTLE CO2, ARE NOT COST-EFFECTIVE
    https://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/electric-bus-systems-likely-not-cost-effective-in-vermont-at

    China has made electric buses and EVs a priority in urban areas to reduce excessive air pollution, due to: 1) coal-fired power plants, and 2) increased vehicle traffic.

    The US has much less of a pollution problem than China, except in its larger urban areas.
    The US uses much less coal, more domestic natural gas, and CO2-free nuclear is still around.

    New England has a pollution problem in its southern urban areas.
    Vermont has a minor pollution problem in Burlington and a few other urban areas.

    RE folks want to “Electrify Everything”; an easily uttered slogan

    It would require:

    – Additional power plants, such as nuclear, wind, solar, hydro, bio
    – Additional grid augmentation/expansion to connect wind and solar systems, and to carry the loads for EVs and heat pumps
    – Additional battery systems to store midday solar output surges for later use, i.e., DUCK-curve management.
    – Additional centralized, command/control/orchestrating (turning off/on appliances, heat pumps, EVs, etc.) by utilities to avoid overloading distribution and high voltage electric grids regarding:

    1) Charging times of EVs and operating times of heat pumps, and major appliances
    2) Demands of commercial/industrial businesses

    RE Folks Want More EVs and Buses Bought With “Free” Money

    RE folks drive the energy priorities of New England governments. RE folks want to use about $40 million of “free” federal COVID money and Volkswagen Settlement money to buy electric transit and school buses to deal with a minor pollution problem in a few urban areas in Vermont. RE folks urge Vermonters to buy:

    Mass Transit Buses
    Electric: $750,000 – $1,000,000 each, plus infrastructures, such as indoor parking, high-speed charging systems.
    Standard Diesel: $380,000 – $420,000; indoor parking and charging systems not required.

    School Buses
    Electric: $330,000 – $375,000, plus infrastructures
    Standard Diesel: about $100,000

    This article shows the 2 Proterra transit buses in Burlington, VT, would reduce CO2 at very high cost per metric ton, and the minor annual operating cost reduction would be overwhelmed by the cost of amortizing $million buses that last about 12 to 15 years.

    The $40 million of “free” money would be far better used to build zero-energy, and energy-surplus houses for suffering households; such housing would last at least 50 to 75 years.

    NOTE: Spending huge amounts of borrowed capital on various projects that 1) have very poor financials, and 2) yield minor reductions in CO2 at high cost, is a recipe for 1) low economic efficiency, and 2) low economic growth, on a state-wide and nation-wide scale, which would 1) adversely affect Vermont and US competitiveness in markets, and 2) adversely affect living standards and 3) inhibit unsubsidized/efficient/profitable job creation.

    Real Costs of Government RE Programs Likely Will Remain Hidden

    Vermont’s government engaging in electric bus demonstration programs, financed with “free” money, likely will prove to be expensive undertakings, requiring hidden subsidies, white-washing and obfuscation.

    Lifetime spreadsheets, with 1) turnkey capital costs, 2) annual cashflows, 3) annual energy cost savings, 4) annual CO2 reductions, and 5) cost of CO2 reduction/metric ton, with all assumptions clearly stated and explained, likely will never see the light of day.

    Including Amortizing Capital Cost for a Rational Approach to Projects

    RE folks do not want to include amortizing costs, because it makes the financial economics of their dubious RE projects appear dismal. This is certainly the case with expensive electric buses. If any private-enterprise business were to ignore amortizing costs, it would be out of business in a short time.

    Capital cost of electric school bus, plus charger, $327,500 + $25,000 = $352,500
    Battery system cost, $100,000, for a 100-mile range.
    Capital cost of diesel school bus, $100,000
    Additional capital cost “to go electric” 352500 – 100000 = $252,500

    Lifetime, A-to-Z Analysis Includes Combustion, Upstream, Embodied and Downstream CO2

    Most CO2 analyses, on an energy use basis, significantly understate CO2 emissions. Much more realistic CO2 analyses would be on a lifetime, A-to-Z basis. Such analyses have been performed for at least 75 years in business. Engineering colleges have standard project economics courses in their curricula. Lifetime, A-to-Z analyses regarding energy projects would include:

    1) Upstream CO2 of energy for extraction, processing and transport to a user
    2) Embodied CO2 of expensive batteries, from extraction of materials to installation in a bus
    3) Embodied CO2 of $352,500 electric buses vs $100,000 diesel buses
    4) Embodied CO2 of balance-of-system components
    5) Embodied CO2 of much more expensive electric bus parking facilities, with a Level 2 or high-speed charger for each bus, than for a diesel bus parking facility with a diesel pump.
    6) Downstream CO2 of disposal of batteries, etc.

    Any CO2 advantage of electric buses vs diesel buses would be less, on a lifetime, A-to-Z basis. The cost of CO2 reduction of electric buses would increase from about $1,700/metric ton (energy only basis) to about $2,000/Mt (lifetime, A-to-Z basis).

  2. Unintended?

    “Unforeseen and being ignorant about” is more likely.

    LAY folks have practically NO IDEA about the ALL-IN cost of wind, solar and batteries and of PHEV/EVs and HEAT PUMPS.

    Here is an example

    EXCERPT from:

    WIND AND SOLAR TO PROVIDE 30 PERCENT OF NEW ENGLAND ELECTRICITY CONSUMPTION BY 2050
    https://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/wind-and-solar-provide-50-percent-of-future-new-england

    Energy systems analysts of Denmark, Ireland, Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, etc., have known for decades, that if you have a significant percentage of (wind + solar) on your grid, you better have available:

    – An adequate capacity, MW, of other power plants to counteract any variations of (wind + solar), 24/7/365, year after year.
    – High-capacity connections to nearby grids
    – An adequate capacity of energy storage, such as:

    1) Pumped hydro storage
    2) Hydro plants with reservoir storage
    3) Grid-scale battery systems

    The more presence of variable (wind + solar) on the NE grid, the more the other generators have to vary their outputs, which causes these other generators to be less efficient (more wear and tear, more Btu/kWh, more CO2/kWh).
    Owners in countries with much wind and solar get compensated for their losses.
    Those compensations are charged to the general public, not to the Owners of wind and solar systems, as part of the political (subsidy + cost shifting) regimen, to make wind and solar extra good.

    RE folks often advocate:

    1) Electricity must be 100% renewable, or zero carbon, or carbon neutral by 2050
    2) Getting rid of the remaining nuclear plants as soon as their licenses expire, or sooner
    3) Getting rid of natural gas, coal, oil, propane to reduce CO2 to fight climate change
    4) Adding biomass power plants (burning trees), because the combustion CO2 of biomass is “renewable”.

    Closing Down “Dirty” Fossil Plants

    Influential RE folks, using rules, regulations, and targets, forced utilities to become imprudent regarding reliability of production under all weather conditions.

    Accordingly, the UK, Texas and California had been closing down fossil plants, and building out wind and solar systems. Utilities took actions that greatly underestimated the risk to electricity production of too much weather-dependent wind and solar. All three had rolling blackouts, and 100% blackouts, that lasted several days, during weather events, similar to what had occurred in the past.

    1) The UK, due to long periods with minimal wind in the UK and nearby countries.
    2) Texas, due to a rare frost adversely affecting the outputs of gas plants and wind turbines
    3) California, due to high electricity demand during a US Southwest heat wave.

    The minds of RE folks, who often have no technical education, get infected by the “wishful thinking” syndrome.
    However, after some reflection of the physical realities of energy systems, that syndrome would immediately reveal themselves as irrational.

    However, because of group-think, and peer-pressure, and livelihood security, too few people dare speak out in opposition, and if they do, are squashed as heretics.

    UN Nuclear Chief Sees Atomic Energy Role in Climate Fight

    Rafael Mariano Grossi, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, sees near-zero-CO2 nuclear playing a key role regarding the world’s energy needs and CO2 reduction.
    RE folks have demonized nuclear, because of accidents and nuclear waste processing and storage.

    Japan: Japan, with minimal domestic fossil fuel sources, adopted a new energy policy on October 22, 2021, that promotes nuclear and renewables as sources of clean energy to achieve the country’s pledge of reaching “carbon neutrality” in 2050.

    Vermont: Folks with RE business interests, financed a scare-mongering campaign for several years, to close down the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, to “make room” on the grid for their own expensive, highly subsidized wind and solar electricity. See URL

    The Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, after producing at about 100% of design output for 500 days, would have a shut-down for a few weeks to refuel, then would produce at 100% of design output for another 500 days.

    The plant had proven itself highly reliable for decades, with an annual capacity factor of over 90%. In fact, the entire US nuclear sector has an annual capacity factor of over 90%, which proves it is highly reliable.

    Russia: Russia plans to build a fleet of floating nuclear power plants and on-shore installations, based on Russian-made small modular reactors (SMRs). These units will be available for deployment to hard-to-reach areas of Russia’s North and Far-East, as well as for export. Such power plants could be used all over the world, instead of CO2-emitting fossil plants.

    A Russian-built floating nuclear power plant is equipped with two KLT-40S reactor systems, each with a capacity of 35 MW, similar to those used on icebreakers. It is 144 m long and 30 m wide, and has a displacement of 21,000 metric ton.

    The project was started in May 2009. Reactors were installed in 2013. Since December 2019, the ship has been anchored at a dock in the City of Pevek, in northern Siberia, to provide electricity to power the ship and the entire town.

    Low-pressure steam exiting the low-pressure end of the steam turbine is used to produce hot water for domestic hot water and for building heating. The hot water is pumped, via underground piping, to a large number of nearby buildings, i.e., a near-zero-CO2, highly efficient (about 65%), DHW/district heating system.

    World Fossil Fuels Supply was 84 Percent of World Primary Energy in 2020

    Primary energy is used for all purposes by users, such as power plants, industrial/commercial entities, processing plants, farming, buildings, transport, etc., to produce goods and services, including for electricity.

    The percentage of fossil fuels of primary energy has remained about the same for several decades, even though wind and solar percentages have increased.

    In 2020, the percentages of the primary energy mix were:

    Coal, 27%; Natural Gas, 24%; Oil, 33%, a total of 84%, plus Nuclear, 4%; Hydro, 6%; Renewables, 5%, after more than 20 years of subsidies.

    Some of the primary energy, about 10%, is used for exploration, extraction, processing and transport to provide primary energy to users. That 10% of primary energy is often called “upstream energy”.

    For example, to produce ethanol from corn requires a very significant quantity of primary energy to produce a gallon of ethanol for blending with gasoline; the combustion CO2 of ethanol is not counted, as is the CO2 of burning biomass, because they are “renewable”, per international agreement.

    China Continues High Level of Coal Burning

    Despite various RE boosters, such as financial adviser Bloomberg, bragging about China’s wind and solar efforts, the reality is, almost 80% of China’s electricity growth is from fossil fuels, almost entirely coal.

    Because China is so big, that fossil growth is worsening its own air pollution, plus the air pollution around the world; the soot falls on snow/ice-covered areas; melting of snow/ice is much quicker.

    In one year, China added 460.2 TWh of fossil electricity, which is 3.9 times the annual electricity supply of NE, or 76.7 times the annual electricity supply of Vermont.

    From third qtr. 2020, to third qtr. 2021:

    Total electricity production growth was 586.9 TWh, up 10.7%, of which 460.2 TWh, or 78.4%, was from fossil fuels, mostly coal.
    Wind growth was 89 TWh, up 28.4%, from a low base
    Solar growth was 12.6 TWh, up 10.2%, from a low base.
    Nuclear growth was 33.2 TWh, up 12.3%, from a low base

    China plans to build 200,000 MW of near-zero-CO2 nuclear plants; about 150 units, each 2,350 MW, at about 75 sites, at a cost of $440 billion, by 2035

    Amortizing the capital cost at 3.5%/y over 60 years would be ($17,556,485,920/y) / (200,000 MW x 8,766 h/y x 0.90, CF) = $0.01113/kWh, about one third the cost of EU and US nuclear plants.

  3. Unintended?

    “Unforeseen and being ignorant about” is more likely.

    LAY folks have practically NO IDEA about the ALL-IN cost of wind, solar and batteries and of PHEV/EVs and HEAT PUMPS.

    Here is an example

    EXCERPT from:

    CHEVY BOLT CATCHES FIRE WHILE CHARGING ON DRIVEWAY IN VERMONT
    https://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/chevy-bolt-catches-fire-while-charging-on-driveway-in-vermont

    THETFORD; July 2, 2021 — A fire destroyed a 2019 Chevy Bolt, 66 kWh battery, battery pack cost about $10,000, or 10000/66 = $152/kWh, EPA range 238 miles, owned by state Rep. Tim Briglin, D-Thetford, Chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Technology.

    He had been driving back and forth from Thetford, VT, to Montpelier, VT, with his EV, about 100 miles via I-89
    He had parked his 2019 Chevy Bolt on the driveway, throughout the winter, per GM recall of Chevy Bolts
    He had plugged his EV into a 240-volt charger.
    His battery was at about 10% charge at start of charging, at 8 PM, and he had charged it to 100% charge at 4 AM; 8 hours of charging.
    Charging over such a wide range is detrimental for the battery. However, it is required for “range-driving”, i.e., making long trips. See Note

    NOTE: Range-driving is not recommended, except on rare occasions, as it would 1) pre-maturely age/damage the battery, 2) reduce range sooner, 3) increase charging loss, and 4) increase kWh/mile.

    Charging at 32F or less
    Li-ions would plate out on the anode each time when charging, especially when such charging occurred at battery temperatures of 32F or less.

    Here is an excellent explanation regarding charging at 32F or less. See cited URL in article

    Fire in Driveway: Firefighters were called to Briglin’s house on Tucker Hill Road, around 9 AM Thursday.
    Investigators from the Vermont Department of Public Safety Fire and Explosion Investigation Unit determined:

    1) The fire started in a compartment in the back of the passenger’s side of the vehicle
    2) It was likely due to an “electrical failure”. See Note

    NOTE: Actually, it likely was one or more battery cells shorting out, which creates heat, which burns nearby items, which creates a fire that is very hard to extinguish. See cited URLs and Appendix in article

    GM Recall of Chevy Bolts: In 2020, GM issued a worldwide recall of 68,667 Chevy Bolts, all 2017, 2018 and 2019 models, plus, in 2021, a recall for another 73,000 Bolts, all 2020, 2021, and 2022 models.
    GM set aside $1.8 BILLION to replace battery modules, or 1.8 BILLION/(68,667 + 73,000) = $12,706/EV. See cited URLs in article

    Owners were advised not to charge them in a garage, and not to leave them unattended while charging, which may take up to 8 hours; what a nuisance!
    I wonder what could happen during rush hour traffic, or in a parking garage, or at a shopping mall, etc.
    Rep. Briglin heeded the GM recall by not charging in his garage. See cited URLs in article

    NOTE:
    – Cost of replacing the battery packs of 80,000 Hyundai Konas was estimated at $900 million, about $11,000 per vehicle
    – EV batteries should be charged from 20 to 80%, to achieve minimal degradation and long life, plus the charging loss is minimal in that range
    – Charging EVs from 0 to 20% charge, and from 80 to 100% charge:

    1) Uses more kWh AC from the wall outlet per kWh DC charged into the battery, and
    2) Is detrimental to the battery.
    3) Requires additional kWh for cooling the battery while charging.

    – EV batteries must never be charged, when the battery temperature is less than 32F; if charged anyway, the plating out of Li-ions on the anode would permanently damage the battery.

  4. Unintended?

    “Unforeseen and being ignorant about” is more likely.

    LAY folks have practically NO IDEA about the ALL-IN cost of wind, solar and batteries and of PHEV/EVs and HEAT PUMPS.

    Here is an example

    EXCERPT from:

    HIGH COSTS OF WIND, SOLAR, AND BATTERY SYSTEMS IN US NORTHEAST
    https://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/high-costs-of-wind-solar-and-battery-systems

    Any transition from fossil fuels to low-CO2 sources, such as wind, solar, nuclear, hydro and biomass, could occur only when the low-CO2 sources are: 1) abundantly available everywhere, and 2) at low-cost, say 5 to 6 c/kWh, wholesale, and 3) as reliable as fossil fuels, 24/7/365, year after year.

    This article presents the all-in cost of wind, solar and battery systems in the US Northeast.
    Table 1 shows the all-in cost of wind and solar are much greater than reported by the Media, etc.

    Much of the cost is shifted from Owners of these systems to taxpayers and ratepayers, and added to government debts

    MINIMUM ANNUAL CARRYING COST OF ANY ENERGY SYSTEM

    Simplified Mortgage Method

    This method can be applied to Electric Vehicles, Heat Pumps, Electric Buses, Wind Systems, Solar Systems, Battery Systems, etc.

    The minimum annual carrying cost of a house, or an energy system, is “paying the mortgage”.
    With regard to a house, all other costs, such as real estate taxes, heating, cooling, maintenance, etc., are in addition.

    An energy system must have annual revenues = “Paying the mortgage” + “All other costs”
    Any shortage of revenues must be made up by subsidies.

    The less an energy system is able to “pay for itself”, the more the subsidies.
    Subsidies can be reductions in the upfront turnkey capital costs
    Subsidies can be reductions of some items of “All other costs”
    Subsidies can be paying for the electricity production in excess of market prices

    A house, after paying the mortgage, likely is worth more than in Year 1.
    However, wind, solar, and battery systems have useful service lives of about 20, 25, and 15 years, respectively.
    Thereafter, they still perform at lesser outputs for some time, but their financial value is near zero.

    Complicated Spreadsheet Method

    A more exact analysis of the economics of an energy system would involve a spreadsheet with many rows and at least 25 columns (for solar), one for each year. It would involve Present Values, Internal Rates of Return, Levelized Costs of Energy, etc.

    GMP, VT-DPS, VT-PUC, etc., have such spreadsheets, as do I. They would be much too complicated to present here.

    The above article estimates the ALL-IN cost of operating site-specific, custom-designed, utility-grade, grid-scale battery systems in New England at 70.31 c/kWh

    NOTE: This report shows values of battery owning and operating (ALL-IN) costs of 46 to 65 c/kWh, which are similar to the 70.31 c/kWh of this simplified analysis.

    See page 19 of URL cited in the above article.

  5. Unintended?

    “Unforeseen and being ignorant about” is more likely.

    LAY folks have practically NO IDEA about the ALL-IN cost of wind, solar and batteries and of PHEV/EVs and HEAT PUMPS.

    Here is an example

    EXCERPT from:

    HEAT PUMPS REDUCE VERY LITTLE CO2 IN MY VERMONT HOUSE, AS THEY DO IN ALMOST ALL NEW ENGLAND HOUSES
    https://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/heat-pumps-are-money-losers-in-my-vermont-house-as-they-are-in

    I installed three heat pumps by Mitsubishi, rated 24,000 Btu/h at 47F, Model MXZ-2C24NAHZ2, each with 2 heads, each with remote control; 2 in the living room, 1 in the kitchen, and 1 in each of 3 bedrooms.
    The HPs have DC variable-speed, motor-driven compressors and fans, which improves the efficiency of low-temperature operation.
    The HPs last about 15 years. Turnkey capital cost was $24,000. GMP, the electric utility, provided a $2,400 subsidy.

    My Well-Sealed, Well-Insulated House

    The HPs are used for heating and cooling my 35-y-old, 3,600 sq ft, well-sealed/well-insulated house, except the basement, which has a near-steady temperature throughout the year, because it has 2” of blueboard, R-10, on the outside of the concrete foundation and under the basement slab, which has saved me many thousands of space heating dollars over the 35 years.

    I do not operate my HPs at 15F or below, because HPs would become increasingly less efficient with decreasing temperatures.
    The HP operating cost per hour would become greater than of my efficient propane furnace. See table 3

    High Electricity Prices

    Vermont forcing, with subsidies and/or GWSA mandates, the build-outs of expensive RE electricity systems, such as wind, solar, batteries, etc., would be counter-productive, because it would:

    1) Increase already-high electric rates and
    2) Worsen the already-poor economics of HPs (and of EVs)!!

    PS Make sure to read all the URLs in the article.

  6. If the Climate council would like to do a biggie for the climate they should
    all hold their breath until these world climate councils are made to be zero emission
    video chats instead of affairs where thousands of private Jets fly to resort area’s with thousands of limos to cart them around the venues…. Why should presidunce bydone fly to Scotland to sleep when he can do it in his fake white house set???? His long
    ripping fart in front of the Royals is still the talk of England…. what a embarrassment
    and joke on us he is…

  7. Private profit-seeking enterprise papered the nation wall to wall with gas stations. Presuming there’s profit to be had from charging stations, leave it to private enterprise. There’s money to be made by supplying market demand, from hamburgers to lumber yards to cars. And competition keeps the prices down. Why should taxpayers, the majority of whom aren’t going to have electric cars in the foreseeable future, pay for them? Why should taxpayers subsidize anyone’s car purchase? Artificially distorting markets has consequences – as Biden is demonstrating.

  8. One has to wonder how the Vermont Legislature could have passed the Global Warming Solution Act without serious consideration being given to likely and unanticipated consequences that will arise from a complete redo of the State’s energy model and everything that this entails.

    The largest undertaking in State history and no thought given to what could go wrong or how to deal with it…….Amazing!………Well, not really amazing when considering the influence the “Conflicted” or renewable energy related interests have had on the entire climate policy proces

    • They’re Progressives. They decide how things will work, then mandate that the work that way. To introduce reality into the planning is heresy. It will get you demonized and shunned. And if you’re a teacher, fired.

  9. It is truly a good thing that Rob Roper reminds us all that reality is lurking around the corner.
    As Vermont government and Vermont residents get all wrapped up in the nonsense of the VCC and GWSA, There’s Roper to remind us- some things just aren’t possible- no matter what government says.
    Thanks Rob!

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