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Herring: Why Better Refrigerators Mean Bigger Deer

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April 29, 2010

Herring: Why Better Refrigerators Mean Bigger Deer

By Hal Herring

It is very hard to imagine- and I’ll admit that most of us wouldn’t want to try- how refrigerators and air conditioners running in Atlanta, Georgia could affect our chances to take a trophy mule deer in Wyoming or Montana.  But bear with me. It is more interesting, and more real, than it sounds.

On March 26th, one of the top stories on Yahoo News was “Cash for refrigerators' kick-starts appliance sales
WASHINGTON (AFP) – Americans are lining up to snap up rebates for "cash for refrigerators" and "dollars for dishwashers," as part of a government program aimed at both economic stimulus and reduced emissions.

The effort, modeled after the "cash for clunkers" auto trade-in program, includes nearly 300 million dollars to encourage consumers to dump older appliances in favor of newer, energy-efficient models….”

I read the story, and then I read the comments (I have become a comments section junkie, I’m afraid). Most of the 240 people who wrote in hated the idea of using the stimulus money for this program. There were posts about “socialism,” “more government waste,” etc.  But I had a much more personal stake in this story, and if you are a hunter or a fisherman, so do you.

In 2004, there was big push by the federal government to lease and develop natural gas resources along the Rocky Mountain Front, north of where I live. This was during the huge boom in natural gas production across the West, with all the conflicts over big game winter range being drilled in Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico and elsewhere. Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front, empty, beautiful, fairly rich in big game, has a special place in the hearts of most Montana sportsmen, and there were not many people who wanted to see it developed in the same way that, say, the country around Wyoming’s Upper Green River was being developed. 

Geologists estimated that there was enough gas buried under the Front to supply the US demand for about 72 hours.  That doesn’t sound like much, but given the prices for natural gas at that time, the resource would have been worth about $1 billion dollars to energy companies, so it was a pretty attractive proposition. 

But there was a sad, common-sense problem in the equation. We were talking about developing one of the West’s most beautiful hunting grounds for gas that would be mostly wasted. For over thirty years, our country has failed to make much progress on efficiently using energy, whether it is produced by natural gas, coal, wind, sun, or oil. One third of all the natural gas burned in the US is used to generate electricity. Most of our natural gas-fired power plants only operate at 55 percent efficiency- they waste two thirds of the gas that goes into them. We have 60 million hot water heaters that run at 50 percent efficiency.  And on, and on.

We’ve known that this was a disaster for decades now- excellent efficiency standards for appliances like refrigerators and air conditioners were approved by Congress in 1987 but have never been made into law. We have already drilled and roaded huge areas of the West to extract irreplaceable energy sources that we have paid for and then squandered in millions of old appliances. Blown the tops off of mountains for coal and dumped fill into brook trout streams, and produced nothing but smoke for almost half of the coal we burned. When natural gas prices rise again, the Marcellus shale formation, under New York state, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio will be the new boom country. We are blessed to have these resources. We’ll be cursed if we continue to burn them for nothing.    

It is deadly boring to read about the new refrigerators, and the stimulus money and the cash rebates. It is fun to yell about the government and how stupid it is. Unless, that is, you know what happens to our lands and waters, our fish and game and our economy, if we just keep on doing our business as usual.

Comments (18)

Top Rated
All Comments
from GregMc wrote 3 years 50 weeks ago

Right on Hal. Common sense measures that preserve resources of any kind (be they energy or hunting) are exactly what we need.
Getting people to conserve energy is not just good for western public lands, it's good for energy security as well.

Thanks for blogging here.

+5 Good Comment? | | Report
from babsfish4life wrote 3 years 50 weeks ago

I wish that people were smart enough to realize that replacing old appliances makes you money every day, not just a check from the government. Over the lifetime of an appliance you will save so much more than the energy-star check. But we live in the "0 down, 0 for 3 months" world, think today, screw tomorrow.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mike Diehl wrote 3 years 50 weeks ago

I agree in principle. But there are some considerations that you have to work around.

1. For most of us, dropping, say, a rooftop RH unit is quite an expense. To get a good efficient one costs about $6000. The stimulus thing just doesn't do enough to make the investment worth it. Yes, you save money on every gas and electrical bill.... and at current rates you'll have saved back the cost of your investment about five years after the 20 year warranty expires.

Most people don't live in houses for 10 years, much less 20 or 25. And putting a new one on does not enhance the resale value of your house. Not saying that's my choice... I will live in my house probably for another 25 years. But I get alot more return for my money if I either (1) pay off the more of the mortgage with that $6K, (2) invest it in my 401K, or (3) save it as a liquid capital emergency fund.

The solution IMO is to allow people to keep deducting the purchase expense, year after year, from their income taxes, until the thing is paid off. A real tax savings each year, of about 1/3 of the purchase price of the unit, applied for three years, would be one way to do that. In that way, you don't have the gov't PAYING anyone, you just have taxpayers who get to keep more of their money if they make the environmentally useful choice.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from pbshooter1217 wrote 3 years 50 weeks ago

The problem with most Americans is that we think in the short run. Spend today worry about it tomorrow. People need to buy quality products that will pay off in the long run, not only in their wallets but in the environment as well.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from babsfish4life wrote 3 years 50 weeks ago

Were you responding to me Mike? I will answer anyways. My response depends on how outdated your appliance is. In my engineering jobs I have designed, in about 5 years they will pay off the appliance with the energy savings when it comes to heating/cooling systems. The payback is much shorter when it comes to water heaters, refrigerators, insulation ect. If an appliance is over 15 years old you would save money in the long run by replacing it (in most cases). Boy have we deviated from fishing and hunting today.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from hal herring wrote 3 years 50 weeks ago

Babs and others- thanks for your posts- I'm learning something.

I don't think we can separate out appliance efficiency and engineering from hunting and fishing. Not in the world we live in now. It's an opportunity as much as a problem.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from shane wrote 3 years 50 weeks ago

Good post - needed to be heard.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mike Diehl wrote 3 years 50 weeks ago

"Were you responding to me Mike?"

I was responding primarily to Bob's initial post but of course it could be a response to you too.

"My response depends on how outdated your appliance is. In my engineering jobs I have designed, in about 5 years they will pay off the appliance with the energy savings when it comes to heating/cooling systems."

Well, my unit is about 20 years old. NONE of the contractors involved could come up with a calculation that clearly showed monthly savings sufficient to pay for the unit in five years, not even with the Federal tax incentive. They couldn't even come up with a clear indication that the unit would pay for itself before the warranties expired.

I had three contractors in to consider the job. No special work required, just a new unit. The best any of them could say was "Well, it probably will pay for itself between 10-20 years, but there's no guarantee."

Which is of course saying nothing at all. It might pay for itself. It might not. It might fail days after the warranty expires.

Eventually the thing will drop out on it's own and I will then replace it with a much more efficient unit. But right now, rational economics just doesn't support the purchase.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mike Diehl wrote 3 years 50 weeks ago

Here, for example, is a link to an energy cost comparison for a gas-heat/a.c. cool unit.

http://www.tucsonelectric.com/Green/EnergyConserv/heatingcooling.asp

My home probably has a 1.5 ton unit. Let's assume it draws an average of $100 electricity per month. If I replace it with a 15 SEER unit, the cost drops to an average of $43/month.

A 15 seer unit, after Federal tax rebate, costs (including installation) according to the bids that I received, about $6,000. The unit pays off its capital investment cost in 113 months... just shy of 12 years. If the unit lives through its warranty period (which is 20 years on the outside), then I save a further $6731. Just enough money to replace the thing if it fails when the warranty expires.

That dog won't hunt.

On the other hand, if I can recover the full cost in three years, then the investment in the new HVAC beats some other choice like investing in 401K. So call me when the price drops to $2,000, or if I'm allowed to recover the full cost of my investment via tax deductions.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from labrador12 wrote 3 years 50 weeks ago

I remember, back in the day, an environmentalist urged people to use what they had. Don't just go out and buy the shiny new thing, keep using what you have until it's used up. We used to talk about the cost of disposal of the old. We used to talk of the resources used to buy a new one when the old one was perfectly functional. Now you guys are saying it's unAmerican to not replace stuff every two years, six years, what? Two weeks ago the GAO released a report saying the folks who do the ENERGY STAR program certified a gasoline powered alarm clock. IMHO the corruption in the government and the media leaves me to believe the old thinking is still the good thinking. If what I have breaks, then I will try to research a new product to replace it. I'd feel a hell of a lot better about my research if those gov guys who certified the gas powered alarm clock were in jail for criminal malfeasance.
This is a Conservationist blog?

-2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Quiet Loner wrote 3 years 50 weeks ago

A gas field called the Haynesville Shale has been disvovered and is being developed in Louisiana and East Texas. Said to be perhaps the largest ever found, it is in an area of commercial pine forests, pastures and row crop farms. Far easier to develop than Western wild lands and much less damaging to the environment. Construction (well sites, pipelines) is a pain right now but the landowners welcome the income. (I'm hoping to "come into the shale" myself.) Let's use this and fields like those in Pennsylvania before damaging any more public land in the west. Pipeline rights of way in this area can be planted in native grasses and provide needed habitat for quail, turkey and ground nesting songbirds. Deer hunters love them too.

I have upgraded some appliances before they wore out but now we are hearing that manufacturers have been slapping Energy Star labels on nearly anything without proof of efficiency. Whether that is true or just another excuse for govt. to make more regulations, I don't know. If I do receive gas income, I will replace more. I will also use the money for some high priced non-resident western big game hunting tags .

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from rock rat wrote 3 years 50 weeks ago

A great post and some very good responses.

Mike, speaking as a former energy auditor you are doing your calculations exactly the way you are supposed to, great work. We call the amount of time needed to earn back the initial investment pay back years.

Any investment in efficiency always needs to be approached with a calculator in hand. And of course there is the priceless value of using things until they are worn out instead of being consumptive as Quiet Loner pointed out.

Refrigerators cost much less and run all the time, that's why they often offer up much faster savings.

Now more than ever is a great time for energy conservation, besides the disruption from energy exploration and production there is the possible changes to habitat if temperatures rise.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from labrador12 wrote 3 years 50 weeks ago

I shoot ducks with the used model 12 my dad bought me in 64 for $50. When its really cold I shoot the Model 12 my grandfather bought used in the 20's because it has a shorter stock than mine. My dad used that gun from when his dad died in 48 until he died in 97. My late wife bought me a 760 Rem 06 in 71, that's my rifle. Should I be buying the newest grooviest stuff available? I am really getting tired of this crap. I drove a 66 Chevy to Ak in 1970 that couldn't run at 60 mph without sounding like it was going to explode. It got 6 mpg. Today I drive a Chevy diesel that gets 20 mpg at 75 mph and its a 4x4 and a supercab and carries more weight. I upgrade when it makes sense. It's not always easy to tell when it makes sense in this day and age because the gov is so corrupt. I understand the post, but the issue is waaay more complicated than he makes it out to be.

-1 Good Comment? | | Report
from hal herring wrote 3 years 50 weeks ago

Hey labrador,

I'm with you- I bought the first new rifle I've ever bought in my life last year- have killed a lifetime's worth of meat with the Browning BLR .308 I got for my 14th Christmas. I'm enjoying shooting a tackdriving Rem. 700, still in .308.

But guns don't burn coal or oil or gas.

And I can't afford a new car- I have to drive my old rusty Blazer, and an 80 Toyota woodhauler that is a local joke.
But I've got a gas furnace that burns at the highest levels of efficiency, and it has saved me a bundle.

What I was saying in my piece is that we are making a choice. Waste energy, waste the places and the things that we say we love.

That's all, really.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from labrador12 wrote 3 years 50 weeks ago

Do you guys think your new rifle doesn't have a carbon footprint? Your new boat or outboard? How about the new 4 wheeler? The stuff that isn't necessary that "sportsmen" buy today makes me want to barf. Yeah lets blame the global warming on somebody elses electric toothbrush. We have met the enemy and its us.
Does a Mojo decoy use energy? How about making a new compound bow? How about a new inline black powder primitive weapon? Get it together guys.

-1 Good Comment? | | Report
from babsfish4life wrote 3 years 50 weeks ago

Buying products makes it so people have jobs, Labrador. People create a a carbon footprint by being alive. What we are discussing is the limiting of that footprint, not eliminating. We are discussing WASTING energy with inefficient appliances. If I buy a new gun, it creates jobs, helps the economy and I enjoy it. If somebody sits at home with a crappy furnace they waste more energy in a week than was used in making a new rifle. If sportsmen are the enemy, who are the good guy? The guy wasting energy sitting on his computer accusing us of ruining the enviroment? Hope that your computer is run by a windmill made of rocks and sticks.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from labrador12 wrote 3 years 50 weeks ago

Babs, did you see the article in the NY Times on the GAO sending 60+ applications for the energy star rating that were bogus? Over 40 were approved for the energy star rating. Explain to me how I can know how much energy i am going to save from an agency that has approved a gas powered alarm clock? I'm just saying, before I buy anything non food related I ask the Model 12 question, Will this item still be working as well 100 years from now as it works today? If it obviously won't still be functioning well 100 years from today do I really need it?

-1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dwight Moody wrote 3 years 50 weeks ago

Right on, Hal. We all need to realize that failure to conserve energy has costs, which may mean the loss of our favorite places to hunt, fish and trap. Does anyone think that the marshlands and coastal areas of Louisiana will be great places for sportsmen after they get trashed by the current Gulf oil spill? Conserve energy, save money (for that new fly rod or deer gun) and help to conserve our wild places for us and our children and grandchildren.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from GregMc wrote 3 years 50 weeks ago

Right on Hal. Common sense measures that preserve resources of any kind (be they energy or hunting) are exactly what we need.
Getting people to conserve energy is not just good for western public lands, it's good for energy security as well.

Thanks for blogging here.

+5 Good Comment? | | Report
from babsfish4life wrote 3 years 50 weeks ago

I wish that people were smart enough to realize that replacing old appliances makes you money every day, not just a check from the government. Over the lifetime of an appliance you will save so much more than the energy-star check. But we live in the "0 down, 0 for 3 months" world, think today, screw tomorrow.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mike Diehl wrote 3 years 50 weeks ago

I agree in principle. But there are some considerations that you have to work around.

1. For most of us, dropping, say, a rooftop RH unit is quite an expense. To get a good efficient one costs about $6000. The stimulus thing just doesn't do enough to make the investment worth it. Yes, you save money on every gas and electrical bill.... and at current rates you'll have saved back the cost of your investment about five years after the 20 year warranty expires.

Most people don't live in houses for 10 years, much less 20 or 25. And putting a new one on does not enhance the resale value of your house. Not saying that's my choice... I will live in my house probably for another 25 years. But I get alot more return for my money if I either (1) pay off the more of the mortgage with that $6K, (2) invest it in my 401K, or (3) save it as a liquid capital emergency fund.

The solution IMO is to allow people to keep deducting the purchase expense, year after year, from their income taxes, until the thing is paid off. A real tax savings each year, of about 1/3 of the purchase price of the unit, applied for three years, would be one way to do that. In that way, you don't have the gov't PAYING anyone, you just have taxpayers who get to keep more of their money if they make the environmentally useful choice.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from pbshooter1217 wrote 3 years 50 weeks ago

The problem with most Americans is that we think in the short run. Spend today worry about it tomorrow. People need to buy quality products that will pay off in the long run, not only in their wallets but in the environment as well.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from babsfish4life wrote 3 years 50 weeks ago

Were you responding to me Mike? I will answer anyways. My response depends on how outdated your appliance is. In my engineering jobs I have designed, in about 5 years they will pay off the appliance with the energy savings when it comes to heating/cooling systems. The payback is much shorter when it comes to water heaters, refrigerators, insulation ect. If an appliance is over 15 years old you would save money in the long run by replacing it (in most cases). Boy have we deviated from fishing and hunting today.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from babsfish4life wrote 3 years 50 weeks ago

Buying products makes it so people have jobs, Labrador. People create a a carbon footprint by being alive. What we are discussing is the limiting of that footprint, not eliminating. We are discussing WASTING energy with inefficient appliances. If I buy a new gun, it creates jobs, helps the economy and I enjoy it. If somebody sits at home with a crappy furnace they waste more energy in a week than was used in making a new rifle. If sportsmen are the enemy, who are the good guy? The guy wasting energy sitting on his computer accusing us of ruining the enviroment? Hope that your computer is run by a windmill made of rocks and sticks.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from hal herring wrote 3 years 50 weeks ago

Babs and others- thanks for your posts- I'm learning something.

I don't think we can separate out appliance efficiency and engineering from hunting and fishing. Not in the world we live in now. It's an opportunity as much as a problem.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from shane wrote 3 years 50 weeks ago

Good post - needed to be heard.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mike Diehl wrote 3 years 50 weeks ago

"Were you responding to me Mike?"

I was responding primarily to Bob's initial post but of course it could be a response to you too.

"My response depends on how outdated your appliance is. In my engineering jobs I have designed, in about 5 years they will pay off the appliance with the energy savings when it comes to heating/cooling systems."

Well, my unit is about 20 years old. NONE of the contractors involved could come up with a calculation that clearly showed monthly savings sufficient to pay for the unit in five years, not even with the Federal tax incentive. They couldn't even come up with a clear indication that the unit would pay for itself before the warranties expired.

I had three contractors in to consider the job. No special work required, just a new unit. The best any of them could say was "Well, it probably will pay for itself between 10-20 years, but there's no guarantee."

Which is of course saying nothing at all. It might pay for itself. It might not. It might fail days after the warranty expires.

Eventually the thing will drop out on it's own and I will then replace it with a much more efficient unit. But right now, rational economics just doesn't support the purchase.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from rock rat wrote 3 years 50 weeks ago

A great post and some very good responses.

Mike, speaking as a former energy auditor you are doing your calculations exactly the way you are supposed to, great work. We call the amount of time needed to earn back the initial investment pay back years.

Any investment in efficiency always needs to be approached with a calculator in hand. And of course there is the priceless value of using things until they are worn out instead of being consumptive as Quiet Loner pointed out.

Refrigerators cost much less and run all the time, that's why they often offer up much faster savings.

Now more than ever is a great time for energy conservation, besides the disruption from energy exploration and production there is the possible changes to habitat if temperatures rise.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dwight Moody wrote 3 years 50 weeks ago

Right on, Hal. We all need to realize that failure to conserve energy has costs, which may mean the loss of our favorite places to hunt, fish and trap. Does anyone think that the marshlands and coastal areas of Louisiana will be great places for sportsmen after they get trashed by the current Gulf oil spill? Conserve energy, save money (for that new fly rod or deer gun) and help to conserve our wild places for us and our children and grandchildren.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mike Diehl wrote 3 years 50 weeks ago

Here, for example, is a link to an energy cost comparison for a gas-heat/a.c. cool unit.

http://www.tucsonelectric.com/Green/EnergyConserv/heatingcooling.asp

My home probably has a 1.5 ton unit. Let's assume it draws an average of $100 electricity per month. If I replace it with a 15 SEER unit, the cost drops to an average of $43/month.

A 15 seer unit, after Federal tax rebate, costs (including installation) according to the bids that I received, about $6,000. The unit pays off its capital investment cost in 113 months... just shy of 12 years. If the unit lives through its warranty period (which is 20 years on the outside), then I save a further $6731. Just enough money to replace the thing if it fails when the warranty expires.

That dog won't hunt.

On the other hand, if I can recover the full cost in three years, then the investment in the new HVAC beats some other choice like investing in 401K. So call me when the price drops to $2,000, or if I'm allowed to recover the full cost of my investment via tax deductions.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from hal herring wrote 3 years 50 weeks ago

Hey labrador,

I'm with you- I bought the first new rifle I've ever bought in my life last year- have killed a lifetime's worth of meat with the Browning BLR .308 I got for my 14th Christmas. I'm enjoying shooting a tackdriving Rem. 700, still in .308.

But guns don't burn coal or oil or gas.

And I can't afford a new car- I have to drive my old rusty Blazer, and an 80 Toyota woodhauler that is a local joke.
But I've got a gas furnace that burns at the highest levels of efficiency, and it has saved me a bundle.

What I was saying in my piece is that we are making a choice. Waste energy, waste the places and the things that we say we love.

That's all, really.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Quiet Loner wrote 3 years 50 weeks ago

A gas field called the Haynesville Shale has been disvovered and is being developed in Louisiana and East Texas. Said to be perhaps the largest ever found, it is in an area of commercial pine forests, pastures and row crop farms. Far easier to develop than Western wild lands and much less damaging to the environment. Construction (well sites, pipelines) is a pain right now but the landowners welcome the income. (I'm hoping to "come into the shale" myself.) Let's use this and fields like those in Pennsylvania before damaging any more public land in the west. Pipeline rights of way in this area can be planted in native grasses and provide needed habitat for quail, turkey and ground nesting songbirds. Deer hunters love them too.

I have upgraded some appliances before they wore out but now we are hearing that manufacturers have been slapping Energy Star labels on nearly anything without proof of efficiency. Whether that is true or just another excuse for govt. to make more regulations, I don't know. If I do receive gas income, I will replace more. I will also use the money for some high priced non-resident western big game hunting tags .

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from labrador12 wrote 3 years 50 weeks ago

I shoot ducks with the used model 12 my dad bought me in 64 for $50. When its really cold I shoot the Model 12 my grandfather bought used in the 20's because it has a shorter stock than mine. My dad used that gun from when his dad died in 48 until he died in 97. My late wife bought me a 760 Rem 06 in 71, that's my rifle. Should I be buying the newest grooviest stuff available? I am really getting tired of this crap. I drove a 66 Chevy to Ak in 1970 that couldn't run at 60 mph without sounding like it was going to explode. It got 6 mpg. Today I drive a Chevy diesel that gets 20 mpg at 75 mph and its a 4x4 and a supercab and carries more weight. I upgrade when it makes sense. It's not always easy to tell when it makes sense in this day and age because the gov is so corrupt. I understand the post, but the issue is waaay more complicated than he makes it out to be.

-1 Good Comment? | | Report
from labrador12 wrote 3 years 50 weeks ago

Do you guys think your new rifle doesn't have a carbon footprint? Your new boat or outboard? How about the new 4 wheeler? The stuff that isn't necessary that "sportsmen" buy today makes me want to barf. Yeah lets blame the global warming on somebody elses electric toothbrush. We have met the enemy and its us.
Does a Mojo decoy use energy? How about making a new compound bow? How about a new inline black powder primitive weapon? Get it together guys.

-1 Good Comment? | | Report
from labrador12 wrote 3 years 50 weeks ago

Babs, did you see the article in the NY Times on the GAO sending 60+ applications for the energy star rating that were bogus? Over 40 were approved for the energy star rating. Explain to me how I can know how much energy i am going to save from an agency that has approved a gas powered alarm clock? I'm just saying, before I buy anything non food related I ask the Model 12 question, Will this item still be working as well 100 years from now as it works today? If it obviously won't still be functioning well 100 years from today do I really need it?

-1 Good Comment? | | Report
from labrador12 wrote 3 years 50 weeks ago

I remember, back in the day, an environmentalist urged people to use what they had. Don't just go out and buy the shiny new thing, keep using what you have until it's used up. We used to talk about the cost of disposal of the old. We used to talk of the resources used to buy a new one when the old one was perfectly functional. Now you guys are saying it's unAmerican to not replace stuff every two years, six years, what? Two weeks ago the GAO released a report saying the folks who do the ENERGY STAR program certified a gasoline powered alarm clock. IMHO the corruption in the government and the media leaves me to believe the old thinking is still the good thinking. If what I have breaks, then I will try to research a new product to replace it. I'd feel a hell of a lot better about my research if those gov guys who certified the gas powered alarm clock were in jail for criminal malfeasance.
This is a Conservationist blog?

-2 Good Comment? | | Report

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