European Talk Continues to Question Future of HFCs

June 5, 2000
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CHICAGO, IL — Yet another influential voice has joined the chorus of concern over pressures from Europe to phase out the use of HFC refrigerants.

Earl Muir, Copeland Corp. senior vice president for global technology, told an audience of supermarket officials here that they have to be aware of what is happening in Europe and how such actions over there can influence politicians here.

“You’ve got to be prepared,” he said. “We have legislators who think all they have to do is pass a law to take care of a problem. We know it is not that easy.”

He was alluding to past political concern over ozone depletion that launched the phaseout of CFCs and HCFCs. Such worries started in Europe and spread to the United States. Now, some in Europe are voicing their concerns over the global warming potential of HFCs.

HFCs continue to be promoted in the United States as the long-term answer for a world without CFCs and HCFCs.

Muir pointed out that the European sector raced ahead of the United States in moving away from CFCs and HCFCs. He noted, for example, that the European Union wants no more HCFCs in new equipment by this January and out of the service sector by 2010.

By contrast, the United States plans to keep HCFCs in new equipment through 2010 and for service work until 2020, although supplies will drop off to 65% of 1999 levels by 2004.

Good News, Bad News

The good news, Muir said, is that HFCs are currently lumped with five other so-called global warming gases (CO2, methane, nitrous oxide, SF6, and PFC). So reduced use of other gases besides HFCs could preserve the life of HFCs, even if global warming concerns continue.

The bad news is that some countries in Europe are specifically targeting HFCs for phaseout and are trying to get the European Union to sign onto such a plan.

The frustrating part of this, he said, is that HFCs “are only 3% of the total global warming problem. The biggest by far is CO2.

“Yet major environmental groups in Europe and Australia are pressuring end-users and retailers to get rid of HFCs and use HCs, such as propane and isobutane.”

Muir urged supermarket officials to continue to monitor developments in Europe and continue to encourage U.S.-elected officials to make sure HFCs remain a long-term refrigerant solution.

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