Peter Powell

Sometimes a flurry of activities and actions surface quickly and then die down almost as fast. Such was the case in late spring - over at least one round - regarding legislation that calls for cutting carbon dioxide and other so-called greenhouse gases by about 70 percent.

In the equation was the issue of global warming. This is of interest to the HVACR industry because HFC refrigerants are perceived as having a global warming potential in the event of equipment leaks.

The epicenter was the Lieberman-Warner Bill in the United States Senate that is seen by many in the HVACR industry to specifically target HFCs for tighter regulation. It was of such concern that efforts were underway within the industry to pull terminology from the bill that would have targeted HFCs.

But just as that effort was underway, the bill made it to the Senate floor and in short order the Bush administration vowed to veto it should it ever reach the President’s desk. At just about the same time, opponents of the bill in the Senate vowed to filibuster it. Supporters realized they did not have enough votes to overcome the filibuster. So the bill died - for now.


We are entering that lame duck time in American politics. The current administration will be out of office come Jan. 20, 2009. There is every indication that not a whole lot will be happening within the administration between now and then. Lieberman-Warner will probably continue to be fine-tuned and amended for the foreseeable future and similar pieces of legislation may well make their way through Congress, but it is very, very doubtful that anything will become law before early next year - at the earliest.

Even regulations that seemed forgone conclusions appear to be getting stalled. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has new pending regulations regarding allowable leak rates for commercial refrigeration equipment such as those used in supermarkets. The current allowable rate is 35 percent. For more than a year now, EPA officials have said the rates will need to be much lower than that. But they haven’t officially announced that magic number - even though most folks in the industry figure it will be about 15 percent. Right now the magic number isn’t law yet. Regulations regarding this issue have reached the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). But the best guess now is that it may not get any farther than the OMB until the next administration.


Right now, it is hard to get a good reading on how either of the two remaining major candidates for president will respond specifically to legislative and regulatory issues of interest to the HVACR industry. Both are currently in the “say something that makes every side of an issue either happy or at least not mad” mode. Any concerns someone might have about where either candidate says he stands on an issue has to be tempered with the fact that, once in office, the next president will not be able to propose or support anything he wants and have it rubber stamped by Congress.


Amidst all the political furor, global warming and energy efficiency issues will continue to dominate our industry. We enter 2009 with the days growing even shorter to convert away from the production of pre-charged R-22 equipment into a market where R-410A equipment on the a/c side is supposed to dominate. Supplies of R-22 remain an issue due to a phaseout of HCFC refrigerants and the slow pace of reclamation efforts.

Governmental regulatory pressures will continue to hover over the industry. It won’t be a smooth ride. Legislation like Lieberman-Warner will continue to arise in Congress. Wild card situations such as the California Energy Commission will continue to march to its own drumbeat.

So when you go into the voting booth on Nov. 4 and pull the lever for president, you haven’t clarified the direction of the HVACR industry for the next four years. There are so many dynamics in play and so many more to come that your vote - for whichever candidate - has just added one more dynamic.

Publication date:08/04/2008