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Environment

EPA Eyes Ban On Greenhouse Gas

A new proposal pushes to curb the use of HFCs in the U.S.

by Glenn Hess
July 18, 2014 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 92, ISSUE 29

Citing the impact of hydrofluorocarbons on climate change, the Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to phase out the use of various heat-trapping HFCs in many industrial and consumer products by 2021.

Under the proposed rule, several HFCs, including HFC-125 and HFC-134a, would be disallowed in food refrigeration systems, motor vehicle air-conditioning units, aerosol propellants, and foam-blowing end uses.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy says the action will result in “significant reductions of harmful greenhouse gases” and also encourage businesses to bring additional eco-friendly coolants and aerosols to the market.

Use of HFCs increased rapidly in the past few decades as a replacement for ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), which are being phased out under an international treaty, the Montreal protocol.

HFCs pose no harm to the ozone layer because, unlike CFCs and HCFCs, they do not contain chlorine. But EPA says HFCs are potent greenhouse gases that can push up global temperatures. Consequently, the U.S. is working with other nations to amend the Montreal protocol to achieve a global phasedown on HFCs.

“The more the U.S. does to reduce HFCs at home, the more credibility it has when it asks the rest of the world to follow its lead,” says Durwood J. Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development, an environmental think tank. EPA’s action will also “demonstrate that superior alternatives are already available,” he adds.

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