Peter Powell

Here’s the problem. This column is being written in the middle of January, halfway between the end of the Christmas-New Year’s holidays and the start of the Air Conditioning, Heating, Refrigerating Exposition. In fact when you possibly are reading this, the expo will be over and we will know a lot more about what is happening in our industry at that time than I do now. It is just that at this point in time, not a whole lot can be said about much of anything.


We did have that flurry of activity in mid-December when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued its final rulings concerning allocations of HCFC refrigerants and the use of the refrigerants come 2010. But we all pretty much knew what those rulings would look like for months ahead of time and we frankly won’t know all that much about what effect they will have for a while - certainly more than a few weeks into the new year.

Maybe more will be known come the AHR Expo. The regs will certainly be a major topic. But, as I noted before, this is being written before that event.

Elsewhere in this issue, I did provide more extended coverage based on info from the EPA as well as within our industry. A lot of it is in Q&A form. But at the time of this writing, we were still in the “What if…?”, “What about…?”, “What would happen if...?” phase. It’s going to take some time for servicing and supply issues to really be better understood.


The other - well, let’s face it - non-event also took place in December. It was supposed to be a big deal. It was called the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and it took place over a two-week period in Copenhagen, Denmark.

More than 100 heads of state and government were on hand with hundreds of others concerned about environmental issues.

The basic idea was to get everybody on the same page over climate change concerns and have those with power to do so, proclaim that their countries would take dramatic steps to curb things that everybody agreed on was causing negative climate change.

Only problem was that everybody was not on the same page concerning those concerns and those with power to do so were not about to pledge dramatic steps unless everybody else was willing to pledge the same … which not everybody was willing to do - thus a vicious circle.

I was asked by my bosses to come up with a 500-word news story concerning the event. I wrote that right after getting back to work after the Christmas-New Year’s break. But the 500 words didn’t say much more than I said in the previous 50-word paragraph.

There was one interesting development in some of the blogs I saw concerning Copenhagen, and it relates directly to something of special interest to the HVACR industry.

That something concerns the long-term viability of HFC refrigerants. HFCs have long been lumped into a basket of so-called global warming gases. For a long time, the industry has been trying to get HFCs out of that basket and treated separately, and basically as good refrigerants that are kept in tight systems providing valuable cooling and freezing.

More recently, HFCs have been lumped into a lot of legislative activity, and again efforts are underway within our industry to get them out of that situation.

What was interesting about blogs and columns on Copenhagen was that some outside our industry are seeing the same thing from a broader perspective.

A Columbia University natural resource economics professor, Scott Barrett, wrote a column about Copenhagen saying “A better way to negotiate would be to break this colossal problem into smaller pieces, addressing each piece using the best means appropriate.”

He even went on to note HFCs as one of those pieces. He was more in a phaseout mode concerning HFCs than many in the HVACR industry might be. But he was right about the fact that the entire climate change issue has too many components to it, and too many confusing aspects to just lump all the pieces into a single, grandiose policy, law, or regulation.

Maybe it is time to pull things apart and see how each component truly affects our climate and how we can address each matter separately. It may not make for dramatic politics and grand statements. But it may make good sense.

Publication date:02/01/2010