The Dernogalizer

May 29, 2010

Update: BP’s Top Kill Effort Fails

Filed under: Energy/Climate,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 8:27 pm

Here are the news articles from the NY Times, Washington Post, and CNN.  A notable quote from the Times article stuck out in summing up the situation.

“The engineers are disappointed and management is upset,” said the technician. “Nothing is good, nothing is good.”

This setback makes a Grist article by David Roberts titled “What if the oil spill just can’t be fixed?”  Below are a few noteworthy excerpts from it

“I’m curious to see how the public’s mood shifts once it becomes clear that we are powerless in the face of this thing. What if there’s just nothing we can do? That’s not a feeling to which Americans are accustomed.  Once we know that accidents can be catastrophic and irreversible, it becomes clear that there is no margin of error. We’re operating a brittle system, unable to contain failure and unable to recover from it. Consider how deepwater drilling will look in that new light.”

“The thing is, we’re already operating in those circumstances in a thousand different ways — it’s just that the risks and the damages tend to be distributed and obscured from view. They’re not thrust in our face like they are in the Gulf. We don’t get back the land we destroy by mining. We don’t get back the species lost from deforestation and development. We don’t get back islands lost to rising seas. We don’t get back the coral lost to bleaching or the marine food chains lost to nitrogen runoff. Once we lose the climatic conditions in which our species evolved, we won’t get them back either.”

May 28, 2010

Bi-Partisan Electric Vehicle Deployment Bills Introduced in House and Senate

Filed under: Energy/Climate,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 1:37 am
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Legislation has been introduced in both the House and the Senate to help spur the development and deployment of electric vehicles as well as charging infrastructure.  As someone who recently test drove the Chevy Volt and has been watching the offshore drilling disaster unfold along with the rest of us, this is timely legislation to spur this technology and help accelerate our transition away from oil.  Below are the House and Senate press releases.

Markey, Biggert, McNerney, Eshoo Introduce Bipartisan Electric Vehicle Bill

May 25, 2010 – Representative Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) along with Reps. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.), Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.), and Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), today announced the introduction of the Electric Drive Vehicle Deployment Act of 2010. The legislation will help create jobs and end our dependence on foreign oil by providing incentives to consumers to purchase electric vehicles, grants to selected communities to demonstrate widespread deployment of electric vehicles, and other measures to incentivize both deployment and domestic production of the needed vehicle components and charging infrastructure.

“The Electric Drive Vehicle Deployment Act will lead to a surge in job creation, help consumers, recharge our economy and greatly enhance our national and environmental security,” said Markey.  “We import most of the oil we use, much of it from countries that seek to do us harm.  The catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico is yet another reminder that it’s time for America to start driving toward a clean energy future, and electric vehicles can help power the way.

“From plug-in hybrids to all-electric cars, the auto industry is moving quickly to meet consumer demand for more efficient vehicles that cost less to fuel up,” said Biggert, a senior member of the House Science and Technology Committee.  “Thanks to these innovations, America is making great strides toward reducing emissions and cutting our dependence on expensive foreign oil.  But our electric and transportation infrastructure must keep pace with technology. The Electric Drive Vehicle Deployment Act will accelerate the deployment of electric vehicles and put new energy technologies within reach of more consumers and motorists. It also will help regional communities establish themselves as models for the development and installation of the next generation of transportation infrastructure, including public charging stations.  I look forward to working with my colleague, Chairman Markey, to advance this legislation and help put America’s transportation system on the fast track to electrification.”

Said Rep. Eshoo: “Our nation has been developing electric vehicles since the days of Thomas Edison. Sadly, he gave up on his dream, but Ed Markey and I have not given up on ours.  The Electric Drive Vehicle Deployment Act builds on the work we did in the House passed American Clean Energy and Security Act, which includes electric vehicle provisions, and it contains my bill H.R. 1742, to ensure that our nation develops the infrastructure necessary to ensure electric vehicles are a reality. The bill we are introducing today will make it possible to drive an electric vehicle from Menlo Park, New Jersey to Menlo Park, California spurring innovation and job creation along the way.”

Said Rep. McNerney: “This is a critical time to work with my colleagues to author the Electric Drive Vehicle Deployment Act, bipartisan legislation that will help advance the widespread use of electric vehicles.  There’s great potential for economic growth and job creation in this field and, right now with such high unemployment, it’s more important than ever to lay the groundwork for these new opportunities.  I look forward to our continued efforts to advance this legislation.”

Highlights of the Electric Drive Vehicle Deployment Act include:

  • The Secretary of Energy will competitively award $800 million to 5 different deployment communities around the country, with the objective of deploying 700,000 electric vehicles in those communities within six years.
  • At least $2,000 in additional consumer incentives for the first 100,000 consumers purchasing electric vehicles in these communities would be provided.
  • All Americans would continue to be eligible for the electric vehicle tax credit, which reduces the prices of an electric vehicle by up to $7500, and additionally, tax credits of the costs of purchase and installation of electric vehicle charging equipment for individuals (up to $2000) or businesses (up to $50,000 for multiple equipment purchases) would be extended.
  • Additional research, development, deployment and manufacturing incentives are provided for technologies that enable the widespread deployment of electric vehicles and charging infrastructure.

DORGAN, ALEXANDER AND MERKLEY INTRODUCE FIRST-EVER NATIONWIDE BILL TO ENCOURAGE ELECTRIC VEHICLE DEPLOYMENT

Senators say the bipartisan legislation will incentivize a transition to electric cars to decrease our dependence on foreign oil

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Washington, DC— Senators Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced today the “Electric Vehicle Deployment Act of 2010,” a bill that promotes the rapid, near-term deployment of plug-in electric drive motor vehicles. The bill would create “deployment communities” across the country, where targeted incentive programs for electric vehicles and charging infrastructure systems would help demonstrate rapid market penetration and determine what “best practices” would be helpful for nationwide deployment of electric vehicles.

“I have always believed in pursuing new and innovative ways to provide for our country’s energy needs, especially as we work to reduce our reliance on imported oil” Dorgan said. “It is essential to be forward-thinking in our energy policy, which is why I am introducing this legislation to help country transition to an electric vehicle fleet. It’s a logical move that will strengthen our national security and improve our air quality, while relying on our abundant electricity supply to fuel our cars.”

“Republicans and Democrats agree that electrifying our cars and trucks is the single best way to reduce our dependence on oil,” Alexander said. “Our goal should be to electrify half our cars and trucks within 20 years, which would reduce our dependence on petroleum products by about a third, from about 20 million to about 13 million barrels a day. According to a Brookings Institution study, we could do this without building one new power plant, if we plugged our cars in at night when the country has huge amounts of unused electricity.”

“As the recent BP spill has shown, America’s dependence on oil carries with it massive economic and environmental risks,” Merkley said. “By accelerating the adoption of electric vehicles, we can take a major step in moving away from oil. These next-generation cars and trucks take advantage of the resources and technology we have available right now while putting us on the road to energy independence.”

Moving toward the use of electric vehicles is vital to reduce the country’s dangerous dependence on foreign oil, particularly in the transportation sector. The transportation sector accounts for more than two-thirds of total national petroleum consumption and it is 95 percent reliant on petroleum. The United States imported 57 percent of its oil needs in 2008 at a cost of some $380 billion – or nearly 60 percent of the total trade deficit. Reducing the transportation sector’s reliance on petroleum will strengthen national security and boost our economy.

Electric vehicle technology is already picking up speed with the Nissan Leaf, GM’s Volt, and the Ford Focus, all due out in the next year or so. The legislation is intended to encourage U.S. production and adoption of electric vehicles in response to some of the country’s most pressing problems, from dependence on foreign oil to climate concerns.

To encourage production and the adoption of electric vehicles, the legislation would increase incentives for electric vehicle purchases, promote the deployment of charging infrastructure, help coordinate and develop model electric vehicle communities, provide technical assistance to communities nationwide to plan for electrification, and increase electric vehicle research and development funding. The goal is to put the nation on a path to electrify half its cars and trucks by 2030, which if achieved, would cut U.S. demand for oil by about one-third.

The True Size of the Oil Spill

Filed under: environment,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 1:25 am
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Courtesy of Congressman Ed Markey’s office.  It’s pretty ridiculous that BP has been hiding the true size of the oil disaster in order to reduce their financial liability.

Markey: Flow Rate Report Shines Light on BP’s Financial Liability, True Size of Spill

Chairman Markey Releases Documents Showing BP Low-balled Flow Rate; Lower Spill Estimate Means Lower Financial Liability for Company

May 27, 2010 – Following the release of a report on the flow rate of the oil spill by a technical team assembled by the Obama administration, Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) today continued to raise questions about BP’s potential motivations to low-ball the flow rate and size of the spill, and released new documents showing BP knew the spill could have been much bigger than they claimed.

The report, conducted by the National Incident Command’s Flow Rate Technical Group, found that the spill was likely between 12,000 and 19,000 barrels a day, far above the 1,000-5,000 barrels a day BP estimated for most of the spill’s duration. Rep. Markey has engaged with numerous independent scientists on this issue who claimed the spill was much larger than BP’s estimates.

“Now we know what we always knew—this spill is much larger than BP has claimed,” said Rep. Markey, who chairs the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming and the Energy and Environment Subcommittee in the Energy and Commerce Committee. “What’s clear is that BP has had an interest in low-balling the size of their accident, since every barrel spilled increases how much they could be fined by the government.”

Yesterday Rep. Markey pressed this point with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, citing documents he obtained from BP that showed BP knew as early as a week after the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig that the spill could have been much higher than their initial estimate of 1,000 barrels. Secretary Salazar agreed with Rep. Markey that BP could have a financial interest in underestimating the size of the spill.

The documents can be found HERE and HERE.

One document, dated April 27, shows that BP’s high estimate for the daily rate of the spill was 14,266 barrels per day, well within the midrange of today’s technical group report. Yet one day later, BP was asserting to the public that the spill was only 1,000 barrels a day – their low estimate for the size of the spill.

The implications for BP’s financial liability are directly tied to the size of the spill. Under current law — the Clean Water Act as amended by the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, following the Exxon Valdez disaster — a company that spills oil is subject to fines up to $1,000 per barrel, or up to $3,000 per barrel in the case of gross negligence.

For BP, the difference between an estimate of 1,000 barrels per day and one of 14,000 barrels a day could really be the difference between $5 to $15 million per day in fines versus $14 to $42 million per day. That means, at the end of yesterday, the 37th day of the spill, the difference could potentially be between $37 million in fines or $1.5 billion in fines, according to BP’s own estimates from the documents.

According to the range reached by the technical group today, BP could be subject to between $444 million and $2.1 billion in potential fines for the oil spilled thus far.

“BP has to stop protecting their liability and start dealing with the reality of the size of this spill,” said Rep. Markey. “Knowing the size of the spill is vital to all facets of this spill, from response to recovery to accountability.”

A Good Op-Ed by Eugene Robinson

Filed under: environment,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 1:22 am
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I would only add onto this Washington Post column that even though we should put the environment first, oftentimes environmental protection and economic growth do not actually clash, despite what special oil and coal interests would try to have us below.  I’m re-posting this below.

In the wake of Deepwater, let’s put the environment first

In June 1969, the stretch of the Cuyahoga River that runs through Cleveland was so polluted that it caught fire. Time magazine described the Cuyahoga this way: “Chocolate-brown, oily, bubbling with subsurface gases, it oozes rather than flows.”

The spectacle of a river in flames helped galvanize the environmental movement, and the following year, with Richard Nixon as president, the Environmental Protection Agency was established. In 1972, Congress passed the landmark Clean Water Act. Today, the Cuyahoga is clean enough to support more than 40 species of fish.

We still don’t know the full extent of the environmental disaster unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico — the impact on avian and aquatic life, on fisheries, on tourism, on the delicate ecology of coastal marshes and barrier islands. We do know, though, that it is the worst oil spill in our nation’s history, far surpassing the Exxon Valdez incident. And maybe the shocking images from the gulf of dead fish, oiled pelicans and shores lapped by viscous “brown mousse” will refocus attention on the need to preserve the environment, not just exploit it.

“Drill, baby, drill” isn’t just the bizarrely inappropriate chant that we remember from the Republican National Convention two years ago. It’s a pretty good indication of where the national ethos has drifted. Environmental regulation is seen as a bureaucratic imposition — not as an insurance policy against potential catastrophe, and certainly not as a moral imperative.

Yes, many Americans feel good about going through the motions of environmentalism. We’ve made a religion of recycling, which is an important change. We turn off the lights when we leave the room — and we’re even beginning to use fluorescent bulbs. Some of us, though not enough, understand the long-term threat posed by climate change; a subset of those who see the danger are even willing to make lifestyle changes to try to avert a worst-case outcome.

But where the rubber hits the road — in public policy — we’ve reverted to our pre-enlightenment ways. When there’s a perceived conflict between environmental stewardship and economic growth, the bottom line wins.

Barack Obama is, in many admirable ways, our most progressive president in decades. But as an environmentalist, let’s face it, he’s no Richard Nixon. Before the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded — allowing, by some estimates, as many as a million gallons of crude oil to gush into the Gulf of Mexico each day for more than a month — Obama had announced plans to permit new offshore drilling. “I don’t agree with the notion that we shouldn’t do anything,” Obama said at the time. “It turns out, by the way, that oil rigs today generally don’t cause spills. They are technologically very advanced.”

Obama has wisely backed away from that decision. The technology involved in deep-sea oil drilling turned out to be far more advanced than the technology needed to halt a spill if something goes wrong — essentially, like engineering a car to double its top speed without thinking to upgrade the brakes. This oversight apparently wasn’t noticed by anyone who had the power to correct it.

Calls for Obama to somehow “take over” the emergency response ring hollow. Take it over with what? Hands-on intervention has never been government’s role in this kind of situation. BP and the other oil companies had the undersea robots and the deep-water experience. Other private companies owned and operated the skimmers that remove the oil from the surface. There is no huge government reserve of the booms that are needed to protect Louisiana’s beaches and marshlands; those are made by private firms and are being deployed by unemployed fishermen.

Obama has rethought his enthusiasm for offshore drilling. Now he, and the rest of us, should rethink the larger issue — the trade-off between economic development and environmental protection. In the long run, our natural resources are all we’ve got. Defending them must be a higher priority than our recent presidents, including Obama, have made it.

Energy policy is one of Obama’s priorities. He talks about “clean coal,” which I believe to be an oxymoron, and favors technologies — such as carbon capture and sequestration — that are new and untested. The environmental risks must be a central and paramount concern, not a mere afterthought. Let’s preclude the next Deepwater Horizon right now.

Excellent Vote Vets Oil Spill Video

Filed under: Energy/Climate,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 12:18 am
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This recent Vote Vets oil spill video does a great job of calling for the US to end our oil dependence by passing clean energy legislation.

May 27, 2010

Minerals Management Service Head Fired

Filed under: environment,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 11:07 am
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It’s a good start…now fire the entire agency and give its funding to the EPA to hire staff that will actually make decisions based on the environmental sensitivity of the permits.

UMD Demands “Clean Energy Now!” at Commencement

On May 20th, University of Maryland students participated in the national day of action “Crude Awakening” to mark the one-month anniversary of the offshore drilling disaster.  More importantly, it was to call attention to the fact that we have a morally bankrupt energy system based on fossil fuels that needs to be replaced through an aggressive transition to clean energy, NOW!


Our action involved 15 of us pinning a letter to each of our caps at our senior graduation, along with a couple of people with nothing on their hats representing spaces.  We spelled out “Clean Energy Now!” for the crowd of students, families, and faculty that watched the ceremony from overhead.  As you can see from the pictures, it’s hard to capture an angle at a split second where the entire message can be seen, but message could definitely be seen from the crowd.  Family members who were unaware that I was doing this action texted me during the ceremony asking if I was wearing one of the “Clean Energy Now!” hats.  I suppose I’m predictable here…

Afterwards, another group of us help up some of the letters to spell out “Clean Energy”

All in all, I think think this was a very creative action, and I want to congratulate fellow student and committed climate activist Danny Berchenko for coming up with this idea, organizing us, and providing these photos from a friend.

I also want to say that at least for me, and hopefully for other youth activists around the country who are graduating and going through a transitional period towards full time jobs (or for me graduate school) is that regardless of whether I’m a leader of a student group, in college, or at a job, I will always be in this fight to stop catastrophic climate change, eliminate fossil fuels, and make right the environmental injustices of the world.  As I move on from this part of my life and my role in this movement evolves with it, I’m not stopping.  With one and a half feet out the undergraduate door, this was my message as I left behind a lot of fond memories and tough fights for what I believe in, and looked forward to many more.

Tell Congress and President Obama not to stop until we have CLEAN ENERGY NOW!

May 26, 2010

Excellent NRDC Ad Calling for Climate and Clean Energy Legislation

Filed under: Energy/Climate,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 10:15 pm
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This is the kind of connection green groups need to be making to push Senators around the country to support climate legislation.  End our morally bankrupt energy system.

Close Tax Loopholes, Save Taxpayers $20 Billion Over 10 Years

Filed under: Energy/Climate,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 1:01 am
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In the wake of the gulf oil spill, can we finally stop subsidizing this morally bankrupt energy system?  Senators Merkley, Menendez, and Nelson say yes.

Merkley Joins Robert Menendez and Bill Nelson to Close Tax Loopholes, Save Taxpayers $20 Billion Over 10 Years

May 24, 2010

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) joined Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Bill Nelson (D-FL) today to announce legislation that will close a number of corporate tax loopholes that allow oil companies to avoid paying billions of dollars in taxes. The Close Big Oil Tax Loopholes Act targets a series of tax breaks related to drilling activities and revenues, as well as foreign tax schemes. Menendez estimates that closing these loopholes will amount to more than $20 billion over ten years for taxpayers.

“At a time when millions of Americans are struggling to find work, oil companies that are making billions in profit are still receiving billions more in government subsidies,” Merkley said.  “It’s time that we stop handing over cash to the big oil companies and start investing in clean energy solutions that will strengthen our national security, create American jobs and reduce the national deficit.”

“The flow of revenues to oil companies is like the gusher at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico: heavy and constant,” said Menendez. “There is no reason for these corporations to shortchange the American taxpayer. They certainly aren’t using the extra money they get from exploiting these loopholes to help bring down the price of gas for our families. Unlike the underwater geyser in the Gulf, we can shut down these loopholes quickly and permanently when we pass this legislation.”

“I’d like to see us pay for an accelerated alternative-fuels program by ending the billions of dollars in giveaways to Big Oil,” said Nelson.  “Previous attempts to close these loopholes were dead-on-arrival, because of the industry’s clout.  Maybe that won’t be the case this time.”

Among its provisions, the legislation would accomplish the following:

  • Recoup royalties that oil companies avoided paying for oil and gas production on public lands
  • Prevent oil companies from manipulating the rules on foreign taxes to avoid paying full corporate taxes in the U.S.
  • End a number of tax deductions and relief afforded to the oil industry, such as the deductions for classifying oil production as manufacturing, for the depletion of oil and gas through drilling and for costs associated with preparing to drill.

Oil companies make up four of the top ten spots on the Fortune 100 list of largest corporations. In the first three months of this year alone, the top 5 oil companies made over $23 billion in profits.

The Close Big Oil Tax Loopholes Act is based upon provisions in President Obama’s budget in which he signaled the need to stop subsidizing polluting industries. The bill does contain important safeguards to allow refineries and oil companies with yearly revenues of less than $100 million to retain certain tax credits and deductions.

Background on legislation:

  • Recoup Royalty Revenue Lost to Contract Loopholes: This proposal would create an excise tax on oil and gas produced on federal lands on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) in order to pay back American taxpayers for contract loopholes whereby oil and gas companies avoided paying royalties on certain oil and gas produced in the Gulf of Mexico.  This would save an estimated $5.3 billion.
  • End Oil Companies Abuse of Foreign Tax Credits: Would require that a dual capacity taxpayer establish that the foreign country generally impose an income tax to be able to claim a foreign levy as a creditable tax, saving $8.2 billion.
  • Repeal Expensing of Intangible Drilling Costs: Would repeal the deduction for IDCs and require such costs be capitalized as a cost of the well or tangible property and recovered through depreciation or depletion, as applicable.  Oil companies with yearly revenues of less than $100 million would retain the use of this deduction. In the President’s Budget this provision saved $10.9 billion, but the grandfathering of smaller companies will lower that score.
  • Repeal Percentage Depletion for Oil and Gas Wells: This proposal would repeal percentage depletion for oil and gas properties. Oil companies with yearly revenues of less than $100 million would retain the use of this deduction. In the President’s Budget this provision saved $9.6 billion, but the grandfathering of smaller companies will lower that score.
  • Repeal Deduction for Tertiary Injectants: The proposal would repeal the current deduction and instead allow oil companies to capitalize and depreciate or deplete costs for tertiary injectants.  For example, supply costs would be capitalized and deducted when consumed or as part of cost of goods sold. Oil companies with yearly revenues of less than $100 million would retain the use of this deduction.  In the President’s Budget this provision saved $57 million, but the grandfathering of smaller companies will lower that score.
  • Repeal Exemption of Passive Loss Limitations for Interests in Oil and Gas Properties:  The proposal would end the exemption from passive loss rules for oil companies so they must operate under the same tax rules as other corporations.  Oil companies with yearly revenues of less than $100 million would retain the use of this exemption. In the President’s Budget this provision saved $217 million, but the grandfathering of smaller companies will lower that score.
  • Repeal Domestic Manufacturing Deduction for Oil and Gas Production: This proposal would repeal the ability of oil and gas companies to claim oil and gas production as manufacturing, thus making the production activities ineligible for the domestic production activities deduction.  Oil companies with yearly revenues of less than $100 million would retain the use of this deduction.  The deduction would also be retained for oil refining and natural gas processing. This exact proposal has not been scored, but could easily save billions.
  • Match Geological and Geophysical Amortization Periods for All Oil and Gas Companies: This proposal would create more uniform amortization rules for geological and geophysical costs.  G&G costs are costs incurred in obtaining and accumulating data that serves as the basis for acquiring and retaining oil and gas properties.  Oil companies with yearly revenues of less than $100 million could amortize geological and geophysical costs over two years.  All others would amortize these costs over 7 years. In the President’s Budget this provision saved approximately $1 billion, but the grandfathering of smaller companies will lower that score.

May 24, 2010

Greenpeace Action Against More Arctic Drilling

The lax oversight from the Federal Minerals Management Service when it comes to offshore oil drilling is sounding worse and worse with each new media story.  We found out yesterday that even with a “moratorium” on new offshore drilling permits, projects are still moving ahead.  Solve Climate just reported that MMS was warned about deep water gas blowouts in 2009.   An article out today talks about the culture in MMS that caused them to discard reports and findings from scientists that permits for drilling needed an environmental impact assessment, which would slow down the process.  One of the permits that’s already been granted amongst these corrupt decisions was to Shell oil to drill in the Alaskan Arctic.  Today, Greenpeace staged an action to send a message to the Obama administration.  Below is the picture, along with an excerpt from their description of it

“The activists took a stand at a drilling supply ship that’s scheduled to leave for the Arctic this summer. Oil from the spill was used to paint the message “Arctic Next?” on the bridge of the ship. Shell hopes to use the ship to support their plans for exploratory drilling off the coast of Alaska in July. But before that can happen, Secretary Salazar has to approve their plan. He’s literally deciding what to do as you read this.”

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