WASHINGTON — A record number of attendees visited Arlington, Virginia, in early May to participate in Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute’s (AHRIs) annual Spring Meeting.

This year’s gathering, held May 6-8 at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City at Reagan National Airport, welcomed Hydronics Institute members of AHRI, who merged their spring conference with AHRI’s event. According to Monica Cardenas, AHRI’s public relations coordinator, 382 individuals attended the event.

Time to Get to Work

The AHRI Spring Meeting is typically known as the institute’s working meeting, compared to the November Annual Meeting, which is usually held in more golf-friendly climates. The Spring meeting spanned three full days, beginning at 7:30 a.m. and stretching as late as 9:30 p.m.

Stephen Yurek, AHRI president and CEO, opened the event with the annual Need-to-Know session, an update from various AHRI staffers to its members about recent activities. Following Yurek’s update, the first day was filled with executive committee and board of director meetings, which are generally closed sessions. On Wednesday and Thursday, 25 section meetings were held, at which time a variety of activities were addressed, including certification, policy (which includes government affairs, regulatory and research, and international matters), standards, and public affairs.

Dick Foster, ZoneFirst, (center) snaps a selfie at the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) Spring Meeting in hopes of going more viral than Ellen DeGeneresâ?? Oscar photograph.
Dick Foster, ZoneFirst, (center) snaps a selfie at the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) Spring Meeting in hopes of going more viral than Ellen DeGeneres’ Oscar photograph. Also pictured (left to right) are Stephanie Murphy, AHRI legal counsel; Bill Steel, Bard Mfg. Co.; Steve Yurek, AHRI president and CEO; and Anne Holmes Schuerger, Morrison Products Inc.

Yurek shared results of a recent survey that revealed the majority of its members are satisfied with AHRI’s performance on behalf of the industry. However, Yurek did discuss a few areas of concern including disagreement over certification requirements, and a sense that sometimes AHRI staff did not fairly consider all members’ viewpoints. Yurek stated that both concerns are being addressed.

Yurek also discussed the joint motion to settle the regional standards energy-efficiency lawsuit. “The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) will begin to work with the HVACR industry to develop new furnace standards that must be complete in two years.”

The expectation is that stakeholders will be provided ample time to provide input and respond to DOE actions, in contrast to the difficulty associated with the recent regional standards process.

Yurek also wanted to make manufacturers aware of an ominous trend the DOE has established in promulgating standards that apply max-tech expectations to equipment efficiency. The underlying meaning is the DOE believes that, once an energy-efficiency plateau has been achieved with maximum technology that may be costly to develop, the industry should strive for that plateau with all production models.

Politics and the Economy

Aric Newhouse Sr., vice president, policy and government relations, National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), spoke to the AHRI audience during a luncheon keynote address. NAM has about 250 vertical member organizations, such as AHRI, according to Newhouse.

“The energy cost to run manufacturing plants has been historically cheap at about 3-4 cents per kW. That cost could easily more than double as the cost of natural gas is creeping up,” Newhouse said. “NAM members care about the regulatory environment of coal-fired power plants. The unpopularity of coal in the U.S. has caused a renewed push for other power plant energy sources and, thus, an expected increase in the cost of those fuels, such as natural gas.”

Newhouse provided a definition of unemployment that differs from what the news media typically trots out, which is now commonly held to be below double digits.

According to Newhouse: “Unemployment is really around 16-18 percent because the number of people who are no longer looking for work are not counted. Elected officials are faced with these numbers in their home states, and it shapes their actions. Jobs are the No. 1 issue when they are talking to hometown constituents, but the No. 1 concern on the Hill is the budget and deficits.”

Newhouse said the difference between real and perceived unemployment levels is a big concern for NAM members.

Newhouse acknowledged EPA activity could shut down a large part of the country to economic development. He showed two maps of the U.S., one depicting the current number of states that are considered ozone-dangerous and another highlighting states the EPA expects to be ozone-dangerous within a short period of time.

The EPA has set National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for six principal pollutants, which are called criteria pollutants. The six are carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, particle pollution, and sulfur dioxide. If the EPA continues its path of regulation, the costs of manufacturing will certainly rise, and the possibility to shutter economic growth exists, Newhouse said.

“The EPA is not required to take into consideration the economic growth impact of its actions,” Newhouse said. “However, we all have an environmental conscience; we all want a safe place for our children and grandchildren to live. At NAM, we think there should be a new balance.”

A somber crowd exited the luncheon after having heard the NAM economist’s views about the manufacturing horizon.

When asked if he thought Newhouse came across negatively, Terry Small, CEO, Mortex Products, said: “I think he came across as very negative. I’m not sure I agree with everything he said, but it does make one think about the state of U.S. manufacturing leadership. At one point, we were, without question, setting the standards for the rest of the world. Now, it seems we are following rather than leading in too many instances.”

Future AHRI meetings include: Executive Committee, Oct. 7, 2014, Arlington, Virginia; Board of Directors, Nov. 16, 2014, Carlsbad, California; and the Annual Meeting, Nov. 16-18, 2014, Carlsbad, California — a more golf-friendly climate.

For more information on AHRI, visit www.ahrinet.org.

Publication date: 6/9/2014


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