EPA Refrigeration Retardation

The EPA is considering new regulations of the gas that makes your refrigerators, freezers, and air conditioners work.  Having just  “declared” CO2 (plant food) to be a dangerous gas, I wondered what the motivation was due to the fact that the ozone hole has closed up considerably. I also wondered if anybody at the EPA had really studied the possible effects of the change? Or, if they were being “stylish” and/or relying on more “junk science?”

After nosing around here and there I found this post from NRDC (National Resources Defense Council) on their Switchboard titled “HFCs: Is this the year to curb these super greenhouse gases?” Not having heard the term “super greenhouse gases” before obviously piqued my curiosity as I was wondering what new “crisis” the AGW crowd would try and foist upon us next. Since the CO2 problem seems to be gradually dying from massive doses of “super-reality” getting rid of those nasty CFCs would be one logical step for the “alarmists” to take.  Here’s a snippet from NRDC’s site.

Phasing out CFCs and HCFCs has also delivered big climate protection benefits, because these ozone-destroying chemicals are also powerful heat-trapping greenhouse gases.  The worldwide elimination of CFCs has delivered a climate protection bonus equivalent to 11 billion tons of CO2 reductions in this year alone.  That’s also equivalent to delaying the expected growth in global CO2 emissions by 7-12 years.

I’ll skip all the whining about it as the above should give you an rather good idea of the postulating involved with this one.  (You can click on the link if you want to read all of it).  To cut to the chase, the EPAs has a plan afoot to approve petitions to re-regulate the gas your car air conditioner currently uses, HFC-134, which is what we changed to back when the ozone hole was the big problem. Their new preferred gas to save the Earth is called HFO1234yf.

EPA has also proposed to approve a new HFC, known as HFO-1234yf, for use in car air conditioners.  This compound has global warming potential (GWP) of only 4, more than 300 times less than the current mobile air conditioning refrigerant, HFC-134a, which has a GWP of 1430.  Last Friday, NRDC petitioned EPA to end the use of HFC-134a in mobile air conditioning.

You can see NRDC is at least partially driving this change, I don’t know who else at the moment. On the face of it I suppose I don’t have a problem with the new gas. There have been issues raised about HFO1234yf being flammable, but my nosing around indicates that while that may be a problem, it perhaps is no worse than sitting in a car with a full tank of gasoline. If enough people get carbonized, then I guess the government will step in with their usual too little too late approach and do something about it.

I also nosed around about the cost factor, as usual it will probably initially be more expensive, but the supply/demand situation will probably cool that off (pun intended) sooner or later.  Again, it’s probably nothing to get over excited about, other than the billions it will probably cost consumers.

What I do have problems with goes back to what is all the science behind this decision, and what will the real net effect be when it’s all said and done? I base these questions upon the EPA’s record, which in many instances hasn’t, in my opinion, been very good. Reducing pollution and keeping the ozone hole from growing certainly sounds stylish. But what are the facts?

It’s also a nice toe-hold for the EPA to get more restrictions passed on refrigeration systems that use HFC’s, like your refrigerator, freezer, home air conditioner, commercial refrigeration systems in stores-meat storage facilities, trailers-steamship containers-rail cars used to transport perishables, airplanes, cruise ships and so on and so on. (Keep reading and you will see this assertion is correct).

Regardless, it’s going to make a lot of money for some people and companies and my guess is it will end up costing consumers (who always get the short end of the EPA stick), billions. Why?  It’s a whole lot of new refrigerant to sell, which I’m sure will improve the bottom line at companies like DuPont and others who sell it. It’s also a lot of equipment to be sold or refitted, so it will be compatible with this new gas.  Back to follow the money.

So, back to is this something that is really necessary?  Will it really to what they claim? Will it cause other problems?  Do we even know that much about it?  Read on.

I came across this article titled “Greenhouse Gas Regulations Might Aggravate Climate Change” from the University of Arizona UA News that cites this study “Carbon Dioxie Emission Implications if Hydroflourocarbons are regulated: A Refrigeration Study”, by Paul Blowers and James M. Lownsbury, in the Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering at the University of Arizona.  The article cites the potential problems associated with this type of changeover.

UA engineers find swapping one chemical for another may actually result in greater energy use, compounding the problems the new chemical was supposed to fix.

This plays into my concerns about what the EPA is doing and if they’re about to cause more problems than they’re going to solve, whether this is politically motivated, or if they’ve really taken the time and done a complete study on this?

The U.S. government wants to regulate the use of hydrofluorocarbons, which could lead to an increased use of hydrofluoroethers as a replacement. Both are greenhouse gases, and research at the University of Arizona indicates that HFEs might be worse for the environment than HFCs.

It appears they are raising issues that the EPA perhaps hasn’t thought to look into, or are perhaps ignoring.

Their research suggests that these new chemicals, originally thought to have low greenhouse gas potential when used as refrigerants, might actually lead to increased emissions. Their conclusions were published recently in a paper in Environmental Science and Technology, the leading journal for the environmental science and engineering field.

Blowers and Lownsbury agree that HFEs have low emissions potential in terms of their chemical properties when studied in isolation. They contend, however, that the true potential of an HFE can only be determined by a complete analysis of its entire life cycle, from manufacture through use to disposal.

It appears my concerns about the EPA doing the old “look before you leap” are indeed valid.  Here’s some other issues regarding this changeover that could actually worsen the effect.

  • The AC/refrigeration unit may have poor energy efficiency (aka: when you switch to this new gas it may have to run more often and burn more energy than if it was left alone).
  • The source of where the power is coming from could have an effect. (aka: If the units are less efficient, and they require more energy, and that energy is coming from a coal-fired power plant if might be putting out more greenhouse gases than it was before).

They did testing on the efficiency and here’s what they found.

Blowers added that geographic location affects greenhouse gas emissions, and said that current refrigerants such as hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, are better for the environment than the HFE he and Lownsbury tested wherever electricity is produced mostly from coal.

However, if renewable or nuclear power is used, the HFE causes lower greenhouse gas emissions than HFCs. Blowers said the “one-size-fits-all approach” to regulating chemicals and achieving sustainability will not work.

In other words, the switch to HFEs might be good in areas where there is nuclear power generation, but it may actually be pumping out more CO2 in places where the power comes from coal. While I’m not too concerned about CO2, this served to show the CO2 Insanity we’re getting over this conversion.

In addition to this, no one really knows what the effect of HFEs will do to the environment.  They might actually be worse, and to reiterate no one knows what the effect will be, so I have to ask then why the rush to change?  This leads me down the “political” and “money” paths.

He also said that the paucity of data available for these new chemicals means it is impossible to measure their environmental impact.

This lack of data forced Blowers and Lownsbury to use computational chemistry to obtain some of the physical data, such as heat capacity, needed to perform the analyses because no experiments had been done to provide it.

Their current research is evaluating dry cleaning systems, window air conditioners and automobile cooling systems to see if results are similar for those cases. This involves designing the process, understanding how the technologies work, and determining the physical properties of the chemicals in order to do the evaluation.

So they don’t even know how all this may end up.  It might be more or less efficient and it might create or not create more problems. So it’s another shot in the dark as far as the EPA is concerned. Another case of the government doing a live experiment using you as the Guinea Pig and using your hard-earned tax dollars.  If it turns out to be a big boondoggle, then you know as well as I do that no heads will roll, no corporations will be fined or asked to refund the money, people who have wasted billions of dollars on this new gas will not get a penny back.  Moreover, if this turns out bad, it will probably benefit the scientists because they will be out getting more grant money to solve this new problem and the big corporations will come out with the new improved product and sales will go up along with their stock.

There is also an issue regarding how much energy is being used to make this new gas vs. the energy used to make the old gas.

Blowers also noted that the amount of energy required to manufacture a chemical needs to be considered when trying to establish its effect on climate. “What if making the HFE used up 100 times more energy than making up the HFC? Or what if it’s the opposite?”

So basically what we have here is the EPA going off on an exploration.  They must think they’re on Star Trek or something, “boldly going where no man has gone before.”  Except Captain Kirk won’t be around to make it better if they screw up. It gets better per this.

In the 1970s scientists linked chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, to a hole in the ozone layer. Thanks to the CFCs contained in coolants, aerosols, solvents and pesticides, we were being exposed to harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun.

These findings led to the adoption of the Montreal Protocol in 1989 to phase out the use of ozone-damaging chemicals such as CFCs. Among the chemicals that replaced CFCs were hydrochlorofluorocarbons, or HCFCs.

Then scientists became concerned about the part that HCFCs, which are greenhouse gases, were playing in climate change. So the parties to the Montreal Protocol agreed to phase out HCFCs.

In many cases, HCFCs have been replaced by hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, which also are greenhouse gases. In 2009, the EPA ruled that HFCs are health hazards and contribute to climate change.

Currently, HFCs are not regulated, and a big increase in HFC emissions is expected. If HFCs do become regulated, the main contenders for their replacement are hydrofluoroethers, or HFEs.

The environmental effects of HFEs are unknown.

You can see how the process works.  It is almost like the EPA was the basis for the movie “Groundhog Day” in which things keep repeating over, and over and over, or that they have OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder). We start out with CFCs bad, we need HCFCs, then we spend who knows how many 100’s of millions or billions converting over, then someone discovers that HCFCs are bad, so then we have to spend untold amounts of money changing over to HFCs and now we find out they’re bad and we should now change over to HFEs, which they have no clue about and perhaps they’ll find out they’re bad and in a few years we’ll be switching to something else and blow some more billions.

I can’t comprehend why the EPA doesn’t slow down some and actually let the scientists do their work BEFORE they start changing things and again find out that the latest fad creates more problems than were thought it would solve.

Here’s their bulletin about it. My comments in blue in parentheses( ).

WASHINGTON – Canada and Mexico have joined the United States in proposing to expand the scope of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer to fight climate change. The proposal would phase down hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are a significant and rapidly growing contributor to climate change. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) led the analysis in the proposal, which demonstrates environmental benefits equal to removing greenhouse gas emissions from 59 million passenger cars each year through 2020, and 420 million cars each year through 2050. Reducing HFCs would help slow climate change and curb potential public health impacts.

During the phaseout of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) under the Montreal Protocol and the Clean Air Act, manufacturers of equipment such as car air conditioners and kitchen refrigerators substituted HFCs. (See, last time they freaked out we had everyone dumping CFCs for HFCs – cost?) The trilateral proposal would phase down HFCs, which are up to 14,000 times more damaging to the Earth’s climate system than carbon dioxide. (14,000 times? Drama queens.  Most places I’ve found seem to average about 300-350 times, the highest I’ve found so far is 3,000 times, so where do we get 14,000 times? Scare tactics? Drama?) Even though efforts over the past decade have reduced emissions, global atmospheric concentrations of HFCs continue to increase. (Think about it, it’s “reduced emissions,” but it’s increasing emissions.  Where do they get that one from? Reminds me of the global warming (hot) caused the massive freeze in the UK (cold) this year) Without this proposal, HFC use in developing countries is anticipated to grow substantially, driven both by increased demand for refrigeration and air-conditioning and because HFCs were developed as alternatives to ozone depleting substances. (Think about this one, too.  We’re doing this in the US, Canada and Mexico, so how’s this going to cause HFCs to cease being used in developing countries?  Think about all the black market things that get sold by people like North Korea, Iran, Russia and others like weapons, weapons grade uranium, the equipment to make weapons grade uranium, etc.  So do you really believe 3rd world developing countries won’t be able to buy products that use HFC-134 and the like?

Signed in 1987, the Montreal Protocol is a treaty with 196 countries to help restore the ozone layer by ending the production of ozone-depleting substances and now potentially phasing down HFCs. (“Potentially?” Evidently no one else is going along with it so far).

EPA evaluates substitute chemicals and technologies for ozone-depleting substances (I’d like to know what they actually evaluate). Additionally, as part of the actions outlined today, EPA will propose four refrigerants as possible substitutes in U.S. household and commercial refrigerators and freezers.(See? Here’s your household and commercial refrigeration equipment, it’s not just the cars!) These hydrocarbon-based coolants would replace existing refrigerants that harm the stratospheric ozone layer and the climate system. The proposal lists isobutane, propane, (So let’s blow ourselves up while we’re at it! I wonder how many fires will be caused and how many buildings will burn, how many people will die in fires, not to mention the pollution from all the smoke?) HCR-188C, and HCR-188C1 as potentially acceptable substitutes for the ozone-depleting chemicals CFC-12 and HCFC-22.

The public is encouraged to provide comments to docket number EPA-HQ-2009-0286 at:http://www.regulations.gov/

More information on the trilateral proposal:http://www.epa.gov/ozone/intpol/mpagreement.html

I guess if you look at the people in command  (liberals), the people pushing them (greens) and the money to be  made from the change (big business), then that should about explain this half-assed process taking place inside the EPA building. Just think of the billions to be made.  Makes me wonder if any ex-EPA personnel will end up on the board of directors at some large corporation after their term is up?

In the meantime, real science suffers as do the taxpayer’s wallets due to the continuing boondoggles at the EPA. I guess the taxpayers have a lot of money for them to play “scientist” with.

1 Comment

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One response to “EPA Refrigeration Retardation

  1. You had give us a correct derived. Thank you for sharing your strong sense of opinion and giving me a whole new range of perception.