US EPA wants refrigerant gases slashed 85 percent in 15 years

Proposed rule will drastically reduce greenhouse gas found in refrigerators and air conditioners.

Michael Regan testifies before a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on his nomination to be administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), on Capitol Hill in Washington, US, February 3, 2021 [File: Brandon Bell/Pool/Reuters]

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Monday proposed a rule to slash the use of a potent greenhouse gas commonly used in refrigerators and air conditioners by 85 percent over the next 15 years.

The move to curb hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) would avoid the equivalent of 900 million tonnes of CO2 emissions over that period.

The proposal arises from a law passed by the US Congress in December 2020 that was tucked into an omnibus spending bill which directed the EPA to issue regulations phasing down HFC production and set up an import schedule over the next 15 years.

The proposed rule entails “allocations” for each HFC producer and importer that ensure the US stays on course to meet the phase-out targets.

“By phasing down HFCs, which can be hundreds to thousands of times more powerful than carbon dioxide at warming the planet, EPA is taking a major action to help keep global temperature rise in check,” said EPA Administrator Michael Regan.

The Biden administration has set ambitious goals to slow climate change.

These include reducing national greenhouse gas emissions by 50-52 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, which it announced at its Earth Day summit last month.


US President Joe Biden delivers remarks in a virtual Climate Summit with world leaders in the East Room at the White House on April 23, 2021 [Tom Brenner/Reuters]

The reduction of HFCs does not mean air conditioning and refrigerators will be phased out.

Alternatives to HFCs have been proposed, including ammonia for air conditioners and hydrocarbon refrigerants for domestic refrigerators.

Europe has used hydrocarbon refrigerants since the mid-1990s, according to the European Commission.

The proposal won the support of the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute trade group.

“EPA’s action will help create the certainty necessary for US companies to maintain their natural technological advantage in the global HFC marketplace,” said AHRI President and CEO Stephen Yurek.

A recent analysis by the Rhodium Group said achieving the 15-year target would bring about an equivalent cut of around 900 million tons (816 million tonnes) of carbon dioxide – the yearly emissions of nearly 195 million cars.

Source: Reuters