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The following claims have attained quasi-canonical status in Washington: The presence of US forces in the Islamic world contributes to regional stability and enhances US influence; the Persian Gulf constitutes a vital US national security interest; Egypt and Saudi Arabia are valued and valuable American allies; the interests of the United States and Israel align; and, terrorism poses an existential threat that the United States must defeat. Subjected to even casual scrutiny, none of the five will stand up.
Many believe that the American economy has some inherent advantages over its major competitors — a more flexible structure, stronger entrepreneurial traditions and a more demographically vibrant society. Along comes a fascinating new book that says you ain’t seen nothing yet. Peter Zeihan’s “The Accidental Superpower” begins with geography, pointing out that the United States is the world’s largest consumer market for a reason: its rivers.
For all the pronouncements about the United States and China reaching a historic climate pact, the agreement they announced Wednesday does not signal a seismic shift in policies by either nation, experts said. The deal is important for what it shows the rest of the world, particularly other large carbon emitters like India and Russia, in advance of a meeting in Paris next year to negotiate a new climate treaty.
The crisis in our political system is less about party than about horizon. Somehow, we seem to have lost the capacity for long-range planning and execution—at a time when, arguably, foresight and patience are more essential than ever before. Iit is hard to imagine how our system can possibly implement policies that would be effective in the long run—or how, if we managed to take the right course, we could possibly stick to it.
The gathering risks of climate change are so profound that they could stall or even reverse generations of progress against poverty and hunger if greenhouse emissions continue at a runaway pace, according to a major new United Nations report. In the starkest language the IPCC has ever used, the expert panel made clear how far society remains from having any serious policy to limit global warming.
The dangers of climate change have grown and become palpable in myriad ways but nations have made little progress. In fact, having put the car in reverse, they are accelerating in the wrong direction. The planet has a big problem. I’m here to argue that divestment from fossil fuel companies is an important strategy for fiduciaries of all types to pursue. Divestment by any group, but particularly by thought leaders such as those responsible for public pension funds, helps to stigmatize the oil, gas and coal giants as repugnant social pariahs and rogue political forces bent on profit at whatever cost to the planet and its people.
At a windy mountain pass on the edge of the Mojave Desert, North America’s most potent collection of batteries used for storing unused power is humming its way toward an electricity revolution. Southern California Edison, a utility that serves about 14 million people, has amassed more than 600,000 lithium-ion battery cells at a substation in Tehachapi, California. The $54 million, two-year test project aims to collect power generated from the area’s 5,000 wind turbines and store it for future use.
It is clear that the current drought event in California is an extreme event, and that it is resulting from a complex confluence of interacting climatic conditions. And it is also clear, given the dramatic and far-reaching impacts, that effective management of climate-related risks requires rigorous, objective assessment of the probability of this kind of extreme event in the current climate.
The Energiewende will go on despite its obvious setbacks. There are countries in Europe that already generate more than half of their electricity from renewable sources, such as Sweden, and others that are getting there, such as Austria, and the continent’s biggest economy is trying hard to catch up. The German government’s determination to experiment, and citizens’ continued willingness to pay for these experiments if they lead to a cleaner future, carry important lessons for the U.S. and other countries where politicians are afraid of the kind of upheavals that Germany has faced.
After decades of cynical and often secret interventions by the US, Britain, France, Russia, and other outside powers, the Middle East’s political institutions are based largely on corruption, sectarian politics, and brute force. The damage in Libya, Gaza, Syria, and Iraq demands that a political solution be found within the region, not imposed from the outside.
Until now the story of human prosperity has been all about cheap, abundant energy. However, something big has been happening. For the first time in history, we are growing richer while using less energy. That is unalloyed good news for budgets, incomes and the planet. We have reached a technological tipping point. Energy-saving is working. Green growth makes sense, and is happening. There is a future that preserves the gains of industrialisation without its polluting losses.
Every piece of garbage can be turned into raw material that can be used in future products. With his influential Cradle to Cradle movement, Germany’s Michael Braungart espouses a form of eco-hedonism that puts smart production before conservation. In Braungart’s universe, every product is basically designed to either decompose without causing any harm or to be recycled without loss of quality. His vision is of a planet on which no garbage accumulates, because all waste becomes food.
A few months ago, the international food manufacturing giant General Mills was branded a “clear laggard” by climate activists for not doing enough to cut its carbon footprint. Today, Oxfam International is claiming big victory: General Mills has released a new set of climate policies that Oxfam says makes it “the first major food and beverage company to promise to implement long-term science-based targets to cut emissions.”
Climate change poses a significant risk to national security. The U.S. has multiple tools at its disposal to mitigate the impacts of energy supply disruptions, help countries enhance their own energy security and mitigate global climate change. We will need to use all the tools in our tool kit to meet the energy and security challenges we face today. Congress can support the State Department’s role in energy diplomacy, expand our technical assistance programs, and consider energy exports in advancing energy security and promoting lower carbon fuels.
Populist Sen. Elizabeth Warren got a rock-star reception during a standing-room-only campaign rally in West Virginia, as hundreds of liberal activists cheered her broadsides against corporate interests. It was the latest in a string of recent Warren appearances where Democratic base voters have embraced her fiery message as an envoy to working-class voters frustrated with both Wall Street and the Obama administration.
There’s been much to-do in the past month about the “war on coal,” the latest front of which is, supposedly, the Environmental Protection Agency’s new rule to cut carbon emissions from power plants. What all this “war on coal” talk is missing is the fact that while the Obama administration is taking steps to discourage coal consumption at home, it is tacitly promoting coal exports overseas through a decades-long debacle known as the federal coal leasing program, which has cost taxpayers billions and effectively acted as a subsidy for Big Coal.
The benefits of the Pentagon’s drive for energy efficiency go well beyond improving the U.S military’s energy security and lowering its costs. Through coordination and technology transfers with the private sector, the effort to create a more energy-efficient and secure fighting force could also stimulate innovation beyond the military and help reduce the carbon footprint of many businesses.
It seems only fair and reasonable, therefore, that all fossil-fuel entities, but especially the carbon majors, pay a levy on each ton of coal, barrel of oil, or cubic meter of gas they produce to a new International Mechanism for Loss and Damage, which would help to fund efforts to address the worst effects of climate change.
A new rule from the EPA proposes to cut emissions of carbon dioxide from power plants, which account for 39% of overall emissions, by 30% from their 2005 level by 2030. To reach that goal, each state has been handed its own target. Lawsuits are inevitable.
Yesterday saw the release of the most important element of the Obama administration’s climate agenda. To some observers, this looks like the culmination of a long struggle to transform America’s rhetoric about the danger of climate change into action. At most, it is the end of the beginning. A quick look at the politics and the law at issue should explain why.
In the quarter-century since the Cold War ended and the Soviet Union collapsed, relations among the “great powers” have never been worse. Their ability to work together on regional or global issues has deteriorated substantially in the last decade. Now Putin seems to want to double down on these trends and create a new Sino-Soviet axis. China, for all of its current problems, will be not interested. The compass for China’s journey still points clearly to international integration.
Putin’s trip to China could mark the start of a new era in U.S.-Russian-Chinese relations, the trilateral relationship that dominated the final decades of the Cold War and is now making a comeback. After Russia’s aggression in Crimea, Moscow and Washington are locked in conflict. Beijing has thus become the new fulcrum, the power most able to play one side off the other.
The recently released third National Climate Assessment (NCA) is a collaborative effort by federal agencies and hundreds of experts, that focuses on the science of climate change impacts in the United States that are happening now, and those that are expected throughout this century.
We cannot succeed if we define ourselves solely by the things that we’re against. We must be just as effective, creative, and tenacious at identifying and establishing the positive solutions we do want to see. If we don’t articulate a vision for a prosperous society powered by clean energy, then the only “optimistic” perspective is to deny reality and bury one’s head in the sand. And that’s a dangerous thing to do when the seas are rising. So here’s what I want everyone to remember this Earth Day: The world is a wonderful place. In just 90 minutes, enough sunlight strikes this planet to provide our planet’s entire energy needs for one year. The contiguous United States has enough potential wind energy to provide all of our nation’s electricity — nine times over. Renewable energy has become economically competitive faster than anyone imagined just a few years ago — in many places it is already beating all fossil fuels and nuclear power on price alone. Got it? Now, make like Muir and spread the word!
The paper “Fueling a New Order? The New Geopolitical and Security Consequences of Energy” examines impacts of the major transformation in international energy markets that has begun. The United States is poised to overtake Saudi Arabia and Russia as the world’s largest oil producer and is on track to become the dominant player in global energy markets. China is in place to surpass the United States in its scale of oil imports, and has already edged out the U.S. in carbon emissions.
The anti-oligarchy argument claim is that the rich have too much money, which they use to elect politicians who will enact laws that favor their interests. But it seems better to argue about the best policies to improve income distribution efficiently, and to point out which politicians support them. “Yes” to the EITC and pre-school education; “no” to subsidies for oil, agriculture, and mortgage debt.
The greatest dangers for the United States do not lurk in terrorist cells in the mountains surrounding Kandahar that are planning on assaults on American targets. Rather, our vulnerabilities are homegrown. The United States currently lacks safety protocols and effective inspection regimes for the dangerous materials it has amassed over the last 60 years. Tragically we are cutting back on infrastructure investment at a time we should be increasing it dramatically.
The United States is now poised to become an energy superpower. As U.S. production continues to increase, it will put downward pressure on global oil and gas prices, thereby diminishing the geopolitical leverage that some energy suppliers have wielded for decades
Wind was responsible for 4.8 percent of America’s electricity used in January. That’s the highest January total ever, breaking the record from last January. In many areas of the country wind has reached an important tipping point: becoming cheaper than coal and natural gas.
Former oil geologist and government adviser on renewable energy, Dr. Jeremy Leggett, identifies five global systemic risks directly connected to energy which together threaten capital markets and hence the global economy in a way that could trigger a global crash sometime between 2015 and 2020.
In new estimates released today, WHO reports that in 2012 around 7 million people died – one in eight of total global deaths – as a result of air pollution exposure. This finding more than doubles previous estimates and confirms that air pollution is now the world’s largest single environmental health risk.
Yale Project on Climate Change Communication presents their report on Americans’ Actions to Limit Global Warming. The report provides insight into public interest as regards governmental process and political action, and business activities and consumer action. It also sheds light on efforts to achieve greater domestic energy efficiency.
REmap 2030 is a roadmap to double the share of renewable energy by 2030. It is the first global study to provide renewable energy options based on a bottom-up analysis of official national sources. The study not only focuses on technologies, but also on the availability of financing, political will, skills, and the role of planning.
U.S. manufacturing—and the jobs that go with it—have been steadily increasing since 2010. Whether the resurgence of U.S. manufacturing jobs continues depends on a range of factors—including environmental initiatives. While the future of U.S. manufacturing jobs is uncertain, energy-efficiency and clean-energy investment can help ensure that this sector continues to thrive.
Climate change may be the world’s “most fearsome” weapon of mass destruction, and urgent global action is needed to combat it, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday, comparing those who deny its existence or question its causes to people who insist the earth is flat.
More than half the world’s population lives in cities. There is clearly a significant benefit to living in a large permanent settlement with many other humans. But is living in a large city greener than living in a small one? Today we get an answer thanks to the work of Erneson Oliveira and pals at the Federal University of Ceará in Brazil.
A new study, published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that production in the Athabasca oil sands region is leading to the emission of levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) two to three orders of magnitude higher—that’s one hundred to one thousand times greater—than previously thought.
Obama mentioned climate change and forcefully called for energy independence, but much of the environmental section of his speech was dedicated to his “all of the above” strategy, which includes big increases to one of the most controversial sources of alternative energy, natural gas.
Clean coal is an essential component of the President’s ‘All of the Above’ energy strategy, but on the heels of the West Virginia coal-cleaning chemical disaster, amid record climate disruptions and drought and flooding, Obama’s billion dollar bonus to Big Coal might signal “game over” for clean energy and climate initiatives in Illinois.
Utility-sized solar plants are beginning to appear across the US, with 232 under construction, in testing or granted permits, many in the south-west and California. In the west, ample sun, wide-open spaces, financial incentives, falling costs and state mandates have made big solar plants possible.
We are already engaged in a planet-wide experiment with consequences we can already tell are unpleasant for the future of humanity. So the hubris involved in thinking we can come up with a second planet-wide experiment that would exactly counteract the first experiment is delusional in the extreme.
U.S. scientists believe they may have cracked one of the great biofuel conundrums. They have turned a thick soup of algae into a mix of crude oil, gas, water and plant nutrients in less than an hour. That is, they have taken 60 minutes to do what Nature does—at great pressures and temperatures—over millions of years.
Since the 2008 financial crash, our country has been reeling without getting its economic policy right. What we needed then, and need now, is a new kind of macroeconomics; one that aims for investment-led growth, not consumption-led growth. But investment-led growth can’t be achieved by a temporary stimulus. It requires a very different kind of strategy and policy.
A new solar cell material has properties that might lead to cells more than twice as efficient as the best on the market today. The researchers haven’t yet demonstrated a high-efficiency solar cell based on the material. But their work adds to a growing body of evidence suggesting that perovskite materials could change the face of solar power.
When it comes to a mass rebellion against the perpetrators of global destruction, we can see a glimmer of the coming upheaval in events of the present moment. Sooner or later, government leaders are likely to face multiple eruptions of mass public anger and may, in the end, be forced to make radical adjustments in energy policy or risk being swept aside.
Canada’s rush to exploit its tar sands and shale gas resources will destroy the environment as fast as possible. A major issue behind climate change is the deficiencies of the market system. Markets are lethal, if only because of ignoring externalities, the impacts of their transactions on the environment.
Until recently, European Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger had to rely entirely on the power of his words to push through his policies. That may change as he presents a list of 200 infrastructure projects that he sees as crucial for Europe’s future energy supply. He intends to spend a total of €5.8 billion ($7.9 billion) to promote the cross-border construction of new power lines, energy storage facilities and gas pipeline.
The latest IPCC Report puts a new debate center stage: how to reconcile increased action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with strong economic growth. The primary question that we need to ask is how public policy can help to achieve its core goals while reducing emissions and building a more climate-resilient economy. As science makes clear how imperative the climate question is, it is time for economists and policymakers to explain how it can be answered.
Ikea is to sell solar panels at its British stores for the first time in an attempt to tap growth in the heavily subsidised green energy market. The Swedish company has its own ambitious clean energy target, aiming to source at least 70% of its energy needs from wind and solar by 2015 and 100% by 2020.
Since it was created by the UN in 1988, the IPCC has synthesized scientific thinking around climate change and delivered a series of consensus assessments to policymakers. But the question is now being asked: Is the IPCC still fit for its purpose? It may do good science, but does it deliver what policymakers need?
Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich have developed an ultra-efficient new engine that runs on a combination of natural gas and diesel. When combined with a battery and electric motor to make a hybrid vehicle, it could allow a car to get the equivalent of 80 miles per gallon, the researchers say.
In May the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached 400 parts per million, the highest since three million years ago. Sea levels then may have been as much as 65 feet above today’s; the Northern Hemisphere was largely ice free year-round. Unless we change course dramatically in the coming years, our carbon emissions will create a world utterly different in its very geography from the one in which our species evolved. By the next century, if not sooner, large numbers of people will have to abandon coastal areas in Florida and other parts of the world. Some researchers fear a flood tide of climate-change refugees. We’re going to see civil unrest, war. You just wonder how or if civilization will function. How thin are the threads that hold it all together? How do you get people to realize that Miami—or London—will not always be there?
Rob Hopkins is an independent activist and writer on environmental issues, based in Totnes, England. He is best known as the founder and figurehead of the Transition Townsmovement. In 2007, he co-founded the Transition Network, a charity designed to support the many Transition initiatives emerging around the world.
Ian Andrew Goldin is Director of the Oxford Martin School at the University of Oxford – the leading global scholarly centre of deep research into a broad range of future challenges. The School research faculty is seeking to find solutions to questions of health and medicine, energy and the environment, technology and society and ethics and governance.
David Keith has worked near the interface between climate science, energy technology and public policy for twenty years. He took first prize in Canada’s national physics prize exam, won MIT’s prize for excellence in experimental physics, and was listed as one of TIME magazine’s Heroes of the Environment 2009. David’s serves as the Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Physics in the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School.
As Secretary of State under President Ronald Reagan, George Shultz helped negotiate the most successful global environmental treaty to date: the Montreal Protocol, which phased out the use of chlorofluorocarbons and other ozone-depleting chemicals. Few modern Republican politicians favor such environmental effort, or even believe climate change is happening or that humanity could be primarily responsible for it.
From stadiums in Brazil to a bank headquarters in Britain, architects led by Norman Foster are integrating solar cells into the skin of buildings, helping the market for the technology triple within two years. Foster and his customers are seeking to produce eye-catching works while meeting a European Union directive that new buildings should produce next to zero emissions after 2020.
Scientists say that the release of large amounts of methane from thawing permafrost in the Arctic could have huge economic impacts for the world. The researchers estimate that the climate effects of the release of this gas could cost $60 trillion (£39 trillion), roughly the size of the global economy in 2012.
The Bipartisan Policy Center carries weight with the media and Congress, but its ‘research’ is little more than PR for moneyed interests. Among other examples, the BPC issued a report on America’s Energy Resurgence with over fifty policy recommendations. The chief outside consultant on the report was William Klinefelter, a lobbyist whose major clients include ExxonMobil.
Powerful earthquakes thousands of miles away can trigger swarms of minor quakes near wastewater-injection wells like those used in oil and gas recovery sometimes followed months later by quakes big enough to destroy buildings. The discovery threatens to make hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” even more controversial.
Obama’s injunction to “divest” was, pretty clearly, a signal to the thousands of college students who have been manning the barricades for nearly a year now, urging their colleges to rid their endowments of stock in fossil-fuel companies as a way of forcing climate change higher on the national political agenda.
Obama has promised to deploy almost every green weapon at his disposal, from better insulation in public buildings to loan guarantees for clean energy. To engage the enemy as quickly as possible, he is relying solely on authority already granted to him by Congress, but even if the rules survive in court, a future administration could reverse them.
In rejecting Keystone, President Obama would not solve the underlying problem, which is consumption. Nor would he halt exploitation of the tar sands. But he would put a brake on the process. Once Keystone is built, there will be no putting the tar back in the sands. The pipeline isn’t inevitable, and it shouldn’t be treated as such. It’s just another step on the march to disaster.
Food waste in America is a problem that has grown by 50 percent since the 1970s. Today, as much as 40 percent of food produced in America is thrown away. Decomposing food releases methane, a greenhouse gas that is more than 20 times as effective at trapping atmospheric heat than carbon.
A team of genetic engineers reports it has developed an inexpensive process that uses fungus to convert raw materials such as straw and sawdust into a productive biofuel. The previous process was prohibitively expensive since the molecular switch required stimulation from a pure substance worth 60 times more than gold.
Some carmakers try harder than others to be green. Besides making their models cleaner to run, many carmakers are also trying to reduce the environmental impact of manufacturing them. Having been depicted as environmental villains since the 1950s, cars and their makers may soon be able to move out of the spotlight.
Over decades California’s green rules have inspired other states and the federal government to follow. Older rules focused on conservation, newer ones focus on investment, new technologies and development projects.
To run his coal trains, Buffet needs to seize land from a bunch of Montana cowboys. The coal industry will ignore global warming. But a federal agency charged with weighing the environmental consequences of a coal-carrying railroad should do better. So should America’s most admired investor.
A line of Mini Coopers, each attached to the regional power grid by a thick cable plugged in where a gasoline filler pipe used to be, no longer just draws energy. The power now flows two ways between the cars and the electric grid, as the cars inject and suck power in tiny jolts, and get paid for it.
The solar era has begun: the industry is booming, prices are dropping, and solar energy at last seems poised to help topple the climate-altering dominance of fossil fuels. But bringing it to the masses won’t be as simple as just soaking up the sun. Electric companies and solar developers are watching Hawaii.
Mr Obama named the officials charged with fulfilling his climate policy: Gina McCarthy, his choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency, and Ernest Moniz, the prospective new secretary of energy. Their selection suggests that Mr Obama is indeed serious about tackling climate change, but not doctrinaire in his approach.
The World Resources Institute focuses on the intersection of the environment and socio-economic development. We go beyond research to put ideas into action, working globally with governments, business, and civil society to build transformative solutions that protect the earth and improve people’s lives.
All kinds of renewables will be used in the DESERTEC Concept, in centralized and decentralized solutions alike, but the sun-rich deserts of the world play a central role: within six hours deserts receive more energy from the sun than humankind consumes within a year. 90 percent of the world’s population lives within 3,000 km of deserts.
President Barack Obama’s promise to attack climate change is likely to light a fire under federal agencies slow to comply with a mandate to cut energy use – which could be very good news for companies that specialize in systems that save power. Major efficiency companies have been working to develop project proposals.
The International Renewable Energy Agency is an intergovernmental organisation that supports countries in their transition to a sustainable energy future, and serves as the principal platform for international cooperation, and a repository of policy, technology, resource and financial knowledge on renewable energy.
If EU policies work as intended, electricity from renewables will gradually take a larger share of overall generation. But at the moment, EU energy policy is boosting usage of the most polluting fuel, increasing carbon emissions, damaging the creditworthiness of utilities and diverting investment into energy projects elsewhere.
Critics counts air conditioning as more a curse than a miracle. Cooling buildings and vehicles pumps out almost half a billion tonnes of carbon dioxide annually. Between 1995 and 2004 the proportion of homes in Chinese cities with air conditioning rose from 8% to 70%.
Chicago claims to have the densest network of charging stations for electric vehicles, and to be home to more wind-farm companies than any city in America. The state is spending up to $3.2 billion on modernising the electrical grid in Illinois. It has also put aside $72.5m to invest in new smart-grid technology.
Russia has coasted on an oil legacy inherited from Soviet days. Much of the oil still in the ground will be more difficult and costly to find and produce. As expenses go up, profit margins will decline. At the same time, the oil industry will have to spend more of its remaining profits on its own renewal.
Far beneath the ground, Yasuní, Ecuador, harbors a treasure that poses an urgent challenge to the precious web of life on the surface: hundreds of millions of barrels of untapped Amazon crude. President Rafael Correa has offered to leave indefinitely untouched an estimated 850 million barrels of oil, but the international response to the initiative has been tepid.
Industrial ecology (IE) is the study of material and energy flows through industrial systems. It is concerned with the shifting of industrial process from linear (open loop) systems, in which resource and capital investments move through the system to become waste, to a closed loop system where wastes can become inputs for new processes.
Pavan Sukhdev is McCluskey Fellow at Yale University. Building on 25 years of financial markets experience, his work is focused in showing how corporations and society can and should work together to achieve common goals and build a green economy.
RMI’s efforts take three main forms: transforming design, busting barriers and spreading innovation. RMI emphasizes strategic influence—changing the mindset of the people who make the rules—and “institutional acupuncture” to get blocked business logic flowing.
Established in 1892, the Sierra Club is the most influential grassroots environmental organization in the US. It has developed a set of initiatives that will help cut emissions, create clean economy, and protect our natural heritage, communities, and country from the consequences of climate change.
Since 1863, the National Academy of Sciences has provided advice on the scientific and technological issues that frequently affect policy decisions. National Research Council reports have led to some of the most significant and lasting improvements in the health, education, and welfare of all Americans.
Frog works with the world’s leading companies, helping them to design, engineer, and bring to market meaningful products and services. Frog’s inter-disciplinary team delivers connected experiences that span multiple technologies, platforms, and media, for a broad spectrum of industries.
IDEO is an award-winning global design firm that takes a human-centered, design-based approach to helping organizations in the public and private sectors innovate and grow. IDEO helps organizations build creative culture and the internal systems required to sustain innovation.
The Smithsonian Institution is home to nine research centers and numerous research programs. The Smithsonian Magazine runs several micro-sites through its “EcoCenter” at its Science & Nature page pertaining to Air, Energy, Greener Living, Land, and Oceans.
The Government Accountability Office provides public access to its wide-ranging research related to Natural Resources and Environment. Covered topics include Mining, Oil and Gas Production, Energy Conservation, Health Risk Assessments, and Federal Land Management.
The Government Accountability Office provides public access to its wide-ranging research related to Energy. Covered topics include nuclear regulation, energy conservation and climate change, renewable energy, oil and gas, defense infrastructure, biofuels, and energy policy.