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How Will Obama Regulate HFCs?

Hillphoenix end cap chillerThis week we’re examining a few of the proposals from President Obama’s big climate plan, unveiled on Tuesday, to assess the impact on business. Yesterday we looked at carbon standards for power plants. Today: hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).

The plan calls on the EPA to use its authority through the Significant New Alternatives Policy Program to prohibit certain uses of certain chemicals, while approving climate-friendly chemicals. Obama didn’t reveal which chemicals would be prohibited, presumably leaving that decision to the EPA. He also directed his administration to buy cleaner alternatives to HFCs when feasible.

These aren’t the only recent White House actions against HFCs. The administration’s fuel economy standards for cars and trucks included provisions to encourage automakers to reduce HFC leaks and stop using the most potent HFCs in their air conditioning systems. Earlier this month, Obama and Chinese president Xi Jinping agreed that the countries will work together, and with other nations, to phase out HFCs. And more than a year ago, the US helped found the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants, aimed at reducing black carbon, HFCs and methane.

With the caveat that we don’t yet know exactly what chemicals the EPA will ban for what purposes, the administration’s actions seem to be sensible, and form an important component of GHG reduction. According to German Marshall Fund fellow and former Clinton climate aide Paul Bledsoe, quoted by PBS Newshour, it’s believed that eliminating HFCs would lower global temperatures by a half degree Celsius. The World Resources Institute has also identified HFCs as one of the four great opportunities for emissions reductions, and says both chemical and consumer product makers support a global phase-out for HFC production and consumption.

Rules against HFCs also won’t come as a surprise to companies that have been following the regulatory evolution in this area. A proposed HFC ban has been on and off the European Union agenda a few times. And actions by major European retailers shows that complete elimination of refrigeration HFCs is entirely possible.

See EL Insights issue 46 for more on HFCs and refrigeration.

Tamar Wilner is Senior Editor at Environmental Leader PRO.

Picture credit: Hillphoenix

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