Posting in Energy
As environmental groups petition to ban some hydrofluorocarbons, the EPA approves a new refrigerant to replace one with a global warming reputation. Could such regulations combat ozone depletion and climate change in one move?
As Congressional efforts to hamstring the Environmental Protection Agency's regulatory powers for greenhouse gases and other emissions from sessile sources (factories, utilities, power plants) continue, the EPA sets its sights on moving targets: air conditioners within automobiles.
The government agency has agreed to grant a petition championed by a coalition of environmental groups. Led by the NRDC, they are asking it to rescind its approval of a particular hydrofluorocarbon, HFC-134a, from the list of allowable refrigerants for cars and light trucks.
HFC-134a replaced ozone-destroyer CFC-12 in the nineties. Unfortunately, it came with its own environmental baggage. According to the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development, one of the petitioners, HFC-134a is a greenhouse gas about 1,400 times as potent as carbon dioxide. The refrigerant can reportedly remain in the atmosphere for more than 13 years.
Many European countries have already nixed the HFC. One alternative is hydrofluoroolefin, HFO-1234yf. The EPA proposed a final rule approving this non-ozone-depleting refrigerant for use yesterday, saying the newer refrigerant's potential to contribute to global warming is 99.7 percent less than its predecessor. Developed by Dupont and Honeywell, HFO-1234yf degrades much quicker. In addition to their global warming impact, criteria for EPA-approved substitutes include their overall safety (toxicity, flammability, exposure risk) and that they don't deplete the ozone layer.
General Motors has already announced it will begin adding HFO-1234yf to the A/Cs within some of its 2013 car models.
Stephen Andersen, who helped organize EPA's Mobile Air Conditioning Climate Protection Partnership, said in a statement that the decision to ban HFC-134a:
...will encourage a rapid market transformation using the best available technology, selected by industry, just in time to allow American automakers to sell their cars everywhere in the world.
Those outside the auto industry may think this is just more regulation, but it is actually government at its best helping industry move in concert on new technology the world needs to prosper.
So adopting some new refrigerants might be a two-for-one for atmospheric health. Last November, the NY Times detailed efforts to use the Montreal Protocol—originally passed to shrink the hole in the ozone layer—to address climate change through the backdoor. The idea is to extend the protocol's regulatory reach to include HFCs. The EPA estimates this could take 88 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide out of the climate equation by 2050. The article reports that the move could possibly slow global warming by a decade.
Related on SmartPlanet:
- Big regs for big rigs: new efficiency, pollution rules for heavy trucks
- EPA regulates big CO2 emitters
- Republicans push legislation to strip EPA of regulatory powers
Image: Flickr/Rajiv Ashrafi
Mar 29, 2011
I found this blog notable and it was all good to know that EPA proposed a final rule approving this non-ozone-depleting refrigerant for use. http://www.airconquoter.com/
Hey..just use 4-60 AC like I do! 4 windows down and 60 miles an hour! Still to warm? Carry a water pistol and spray you face!Thats what we all will be doing when they take it a step further and totaly out law ALL AC..even for your 105 degree house !Hook up a dozen fans and put a big hunk of ice in front of them! I will do that as soon as I see AL Gore do it!
@TranMan You are correct. Every mechanic is required to capture refrigerant. There are still some backyard mechanics that aren't doing it. Littering is illegal. Some people still through trash out their windows.
We also need to ask just what the efficiency of these new systems are compared to the old ones. How much larger (and heavier) will these units be? How will this affect a vehicles fuel economy and/or performance? What will be the additional costs be for both manufacturer and buyer? etcetera, Etcetera, ETCETERA !!
@rpwillia0 In reality the size of the Ozone hole has been trending down since 2006 http://ozonewatch.gsfc.nasa.gov/ . You liberals really do need to start getting your facts straight. I do agree with you that R-12 has had negligible effect on Ozone and it does seem to be more closely related to cold (as you say), but please cite your sources before jumping the gun.
The answer is bigger than before. Reducing the R-12 has had no effect. It seems the effect is based more on how cold it is up in the atmosphere. Now let's talk about global warming. Follow the $$$
"Not so with many "shade-tree" mechanics". Everybody, shade-tree mechanic or not, is required to recover CFC's/HCFC's, and is subject to HUGE fines if they get caught not doing it. Just ask anybody (like me) that has their EPA 608/609 certifications. I have never personally vented, nor have I observed anyone else, venting coolant gases to the atmosphere.
Back in the early '90s, when Dupont's patents on R12 were running out, they cooked up the hole-in-the-sky scare tactic to get governments to force people to switch to one of their recently filed (or purchased) patent alternatives. It looks like they're being more proactive this time, but it's the same scam. How many years do you retain exclusive patent rights? 20? How many years has R134a been in mainstream use? Close to 20? Large pharmaceutical companies do this all the time. In the threat of losing a large source of income, they'll purposely tarnish the reputation of their flagship product just as they're about to lose control of it. At the same time, they shed favorable light upon their new, freshly patented alternative -- good times and employee bonuses for another 20 years... From what I've researched, R12 is heavy and hugs the ground. It never gets up high enough to react with the ozone layer. If anything, it helps rid cities of poisonous ground-level ozone. Many of the best recent scams seem to have a "green" color. It's too bad that most governments are full of idiots who can't see what's really going on.
It's already illegal to have a car air conditioner that leaks... of course they all leak, but as long as it can maintain a healthy charge for two years, you're OK. Car repair shops are required to capture and refrigerant on systems they work on, to not release refrigerants into the atmosphere. Not so with many "shade-tree" mechanics, some mobile mechanics, and smaller shops. I'm all for environmentally friendly refrigerants. If you want to ban car A/C, come down to Texas in August when it's 105 in the shade.
@sboverie If it did the exact same thing for a lower cost (or even the same cost) and was already compatible with current AC systems, I would think that manufacturers would have already switched over. Wouldn't you? After all, they could save money (or at least not spend any more) and claim to be saving the environment at the same time. To be clear, I do not know what the cost of this conversion is, but it just does not make sense that businesses would just overlook a more cost effective and PR-friendly material.
What is needed is information on the cost to change to HFO-1234yf. Is the new refrigerant compatible with the current AC systems? What is the difference in cost between HFO-1234yf and HFC-134a? If the new formula is the same or cheaper and does not require a new AC system then this is beneficial in more ways.