Forum Explores Ways To Cut Emissions

May 6, 2004
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Robert G. Card, undersecretary for Energy, Science and Environment, U.S. Department of Energy, spoke about energy variables.
WASHINGTON - Energy efficiency, renewable energy, and making the move to HFC refrigerants are some of the keys to reducing emissions in the United States, according to speakers at the Earth Technologies Forum, held at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill. Presenters explained how all these factors work hand in hand.

In his opening keynote address, Robert G. Card, undersecretary for Energy, Science and Environment, U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), emphasized that the Bush administration is committed to climate change initiatives. "Greenhouse gas emission mitigation represents the single most important long-term variable in energy use," he said.

The administration is exploring such things as FutureGen, an international zero-emission coal-fired power plant initiative, and safer nuclear power. Renewable energy is also getting close attention.

"Many people are surprised to find out that more than 20 times the rate for oil and gas R&D is going for renewables R&D - actually, more than 26 times," he stated.

Voluntary climate change programs in the U.S. concentrate on long-term commitments as well as the Bush administration's short-term goal of 18 percent intensity reduction between 2002 and 2012, he said. For example, ClimateVISION is a DOE-led program focused on industry associations.

The core principles for improvement, he said, are:

  • Gain support for the president's goal of 18 percent intensity reduction;

  • Create a transparent program for reporting emissions and reductions;

  • Achieve broad acceptance; and

  • Get the important emissions right - reduce those that have the most significant impact.

    "The administration is taking this issue very seriously," he concluded.

    Dr. James Mahoney, assistant secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and deputy administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), addressed climate change science and government policy.

    Environmental Science And Policy

    Dr. James Mahoney, assistant secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and deputy administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), titled his plenary session presentation "The Nexus Between Science and Policy."

    He said that the effects of population growth, transportation growth, and water demand in our cities definitely impact the environment in those regions. "We have to look at how we can mitigate the effects and find balance."

    In looking at climate change, we're concerned with both the near term and the long term. "We have to see if the trends we are looking at are reliable," he said, "so those who follow us can use the information we provide."

    Describing the nexus, or link, between science and government policy, Mahoney noted, "Government must ask questions of the scientific community. But science should not drive policy; it should inform policy."

    There must be "a commitment to obtain the best possible science," backed by cabinet-level and legislative support.

    Mahoney related that President Bush announced the Climate Change Research Initiative and the Climate Change Technology Initiative in June 2001. The president established new cabinet-level responsibilities for climate science and technology in February 2002. The federal government is now spending $2 billion in research on the science side and another $2 billion on the technology side. There are nearly 5,000 research projects being conducted by university and federal scientists.

    The five goals of climate science, he said, are:

    1. Improve our historical knowledge.

    2. Quantify our knowledge.

    3. Reduce uncertainty.

    4. Understand the sensitivity and adaptability of ecosystems.

    5. Examine the uses and limitations of decision-support tools.

    The government is currently "producing a group of 21 synthesis and assessment documents to update what we know," he remarked.

    Challenges for the future include the budget - finding the ongoing funding needed for research. There is the continuing issue of prioritization. "Research priorities are set on an annual basis," Mahoney said. And the government must maintain its interaction with the scientific and international communities, as well as stakeholders.

    Emissions And Energy

    Jae Edwards, chief scientist, Joint Global Change Research Institute, emphasized that climate change is a long-term issue. "It's a century time scale."

    He noted, "You need a broad energy portfolio in framing a risk management strategy" to deal with emissions, including employing energy efficiency, renewable energy, and nuclear power. He added that there are several potential technologies that could dramatically reduce the cost of stabilizing CO2 emissions.

    Stabilization of CO2 - the prime greenhouse gas - is a very long-term problem, Edwards said. "Stabilization means that emissions must peak in the decades ahead and then decline steadily after that."

    He noted that some ask, "Won't limited oil and gas force a transition to energy efficiency and renewable energy?" He responded that coal, however, is abundant, and we can use it for various energy uses.

    To help reach greenhouse gas stabilization, there will be advances in fossil fuels, nuclear power, and renewable energy to reduce emissions, he said. New technologies worth considering include carbon capture and storage. "Technology breakthroughs are essential to stabilizing concentrations and controlling costs," commented Edwards.

    A portfolio of technologies to tackle the problem, he said, could include:

  • Energy intensity improvements.

  • Wind and solar power.

  • Biotechnology.

  • Nuclear power.

  • Hydrogen systems.

  • Carbon capture.

    Technology alone won't necessarily stabilize CO2 concentrations, he stated. "In a hydrogen economy, where do you get the hydrogen? Energy is needed to create hydrogen." But technology does help control the costs, he added.

    A problem, he noted, is that the funding for research to develop and advance energy technologies is heading downward. "Public sector energy R&D investments are declining around the world. This is mirrored in the private sector as well."

    Joe McGuire, president of the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, emphasized his association’s support for HFCs.

    Appliance Industry Embraces HFCs

    In his address, Joe McGuire, president of the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM), started by providing some background on the organization, pointing out that it is a global association with a primary focus on North America. Products covered include refrigerators, freezers, and room air conditioners. Members include producers of refrigerants. Altogether, its members produce equipment valued at $24 billion annually.

    Appliance manufacturers supported climate change policy from the beginning, said McGuire. But cumulative burden must be recognized in adapting to regulations, he added, and the federal government has considered cumulative burden.

    "Our industry worked very cooperatively with Energy Star," he said, and today's Energy Star-rated refrigerator "uses less energy than a 75-watt light bulb."

    The Appliance Research Consortium, which was established in 1989, does pre-competitive re-search for the industry. McGuire said that this program identified the challenge to switch to new refrigerants and did the research needed to move to new refrigerants proactively.

    The appliance industry sees the Kyoto Protocol as "flawed," he said, but it is committed to taking "prudent steps" to contain emissions.

    "The home appliance industry believes HFCs are the best choice in North America," stated McGuire. Some nations in Europe are proposing HFC bans, he noted. "We believe HFC bans are unnecessary."

    The exhibit area at the Earth Technologies Forum included booths of various manufacturers and organizations. Carrier’s booth featured several products, including Aero air-handling units, Aquasnap air-cooled chillers, and Evergreen water-cooled chillers.

    Looking At The HCFC-22 Phaseout

    Jeff Cohen and Dave Godwin of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) discussed "Potential Implications for the HCFC-22 Phaseout in the United States."

    Reviewing the refrigerant regulations, Cohen related that, in December 1993, EPA established the phaseout schedule. In January 2003, the HCFC Allocation Rule went into effect. As of January 2010, no HCFCs are allowed in new equipment. The U.S is now "starting to see a slight decline in R-22 sales," he said.

    The commercial refrigeration market began moving to HFC refrigerants early. "HFC systems represent 60 percent of new sales in supermarket refrigeration systems," said Cohen. In the unitary air conditioning market, "HFC systems represent 6 to 7 percent of new sales."

    CFC supplies are still available due to responsible use, he said, and equipment with long service life, such as chillers, continues to use CFCs. The impetus to keep using CFCs is due to familiarity, he commented.

    Regarding supply and demand, "The transition from CFCs to HCFCs has been relatively smooth," noted Cohen.

    On the move to HFCs, Godwin said that the EPA sees a linear transition from HCFCs today to 100 percent HFC by 2010. Leak rates are expected to decrease, he stated. Reclamation of HCFCs is expected to increase to cover the need for older machines.

    There is a need to keep leak rates down to make sure the U.S. stays below allocation levels and to ensure that supply meets demand, remarked Godwin.

    "With regulations and voluntary actions we can have a successful transition to HFCs," he said. What the HVACR industry can do to help is improve service practices; fix leaks; retrofit/replace where economical; sell more non-HCFC products; and explain to customers the advantages of HFC systems.

    For more on the Earth Technologies Forum, see "EPA Presents Climate Protection Award" and "Trane Announces Leak-Tight Warranty For Chillers" in this issue.

    Publication date: 05/10/2004

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