Energy

To Fight Global Warming, EPA Targets Chemicals For Fridges, Air Conditioners

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Michael Bastasch Energy Editor

First, the Obama administration went after carbon dioxide from power plants, then it cracked down on methane from oil and gas drilling. Now, federal agencies are targeting hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) used for refrigerators and air conditioners.

The Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Energy (DOE) and Department of Defense (DOD) are writing rules to phase out the use of HFC, a greenhouse gas commonly used for refrigeration and air conditioning.

HFCs are useful chemicals found in refrigeration, air conditioning and foam insulation. The Obama administration argues the impacts on Earth’s temperature mean people need to stop using it.

The EPA says it will write rules banning HFCs where “climate-friendly” alternatives are available. The agency will also be regulating how refrigerants are handled in an effort to fight global warming.

“The powerful combination of EPA’s regulatory actions and innovations emerging from the private sector have put our country on track to significantly cut HFC use and deliver on the goals of the President’s Climate Action Plan,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in a statement.

On top of EPA regulations, the DOE and DOD will fund efforts to find alternatives to HFCs along with ways to safely dispose of the greenhouse gas. DOD plans on retrofitting new amphibious transport ships with new low-HFC air conditioning and refrigeration plants.

For years, scientists have argued HFCs deplete Earth’s ozone layer, and now they have linked them to global warming. Environmentalists have lobbied the Obama administration to crack down on HFCs.

The EPA issued regulations to ban certain HFCs that can be used in “aerosol, foam blowing, and air conditioning and refrigerant end-uses” if there are alternatives that lower the risk to global warming.

The government says HFCs are up to 10,000 times more potent greenhouse gases than carbon dioxide, and the White House expects its HFC crackdown to reduce the equivalent of more than 100 million metric tons of carbon dioxide by 2025. But the Obama administration doesn’t say what impact its HFC crackdown will have on projected global temperature rise.

The announcement comes as United Nations delegates prepare to meet in Paris this winter to discuss a successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol. President Barack Obama has made signing a global climate deal a major foreign policy priority, and White House staff have worked tirelessly to get other major countries to agree to a climate deal.

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