We in the HVACR industry have wrapped ourselves in a cocoon to protect our HFC refrigerants and tried to hide from the global warming attacks being leveled at those refrigerants.

After all, we say, we did our duty when the ozone depletion issue started 20 years ago as we got rid of those evil CFCs and HCFCs ... now leave us alone with our HFCs. No such luck.

Several instances surfaced in just the past few weeks that signal a real, full-scale donnybrook when it comes to global warming issues that will make an evening of WWE wrestling tame and boring by comparison.

But the good news is that, in the end, something good may come out of all this.

The first major volley was fired about a month ago when Al Gore ended up holding an Academy Award for a documentary he did on global warming called “An Inconvenient Truth.” It was already a box-office and critical success by documentary standards and that was sure to increase with Hollywood’s highest honor attached to the project.

A second shot, though perhaps not heard round the world, was that global warming ended up in late night talk show comedy monologues, which are measures of what’s on folks’ minds, regardless of how funny the jokes are.

I can vaguely recall Jay Leno recently telling a joke about cows giving off methane gas thus contributing to global warming. I can’t remember the joke at all, although I do remember writing an entire column on the same topic a couple of years ago. (Odd. I watch Leno. Does Leno readThe NEWS?)

Even within the industry, the global warming issue is being acknowledged forcefully. Just a few weeks ago Mack McFarland, an environmentalist specialist with DuPont, spoke during a Webcast. “The basic science of global warming is sound; there is a natural greenhouse effect. Increasing concentrations will cause an enhanced greenhouse effect, global climate change or global warming,” he said.

In that address he acknowledged that our HFCs are a factor in the global warming (but also said they remain the best option for a large variety of needs).

And that leads to two important criteria for the upcoming fussing and fighting.

First, hopefully, is awareness from those beyond the HVACR enclave that the global warming issue is not just HFC refrigerants. It also deals with such things as carbon dioxide emissions from automobiles and the burning of fossil fuels - as well as the releasing of methane gas by cows. One encouraging aspect of all this was the recent announcement concerning the sale of a mega-Texas utility. The prospective owners of TXU Corp. told environmental groups that they would cancel eight of 11 coal plants proposed by the company and also back national legislation for mandatory reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.

Hopefully the size of the utility and the publicity it receives will continue to draw attention to looking at global warming as an issue that is much more than the high global warming potential (GWP) rates of many HFCs.

The second criterion is more practical, and even at the sake of sounding like a broken record, involves all of us who use and work with refrigerants. The oldest adage in this industry is that a leak-tight system doesn’t add to ozone depletion or global warming. Systems need to be tight and kept tight. If we can show that to the outside world, we will have gone a long way toward keeping HFCs in the mix.

It might also help to do a better job with HCFCs, which are being phased out because of ozone depletion issues.

Even today, reports come out in trade and general press about venting fines and leak rates related to HCFCs, most often R-22. Internally, we are aware that there are still a lot of R-22 charges being blown off into the atmosphere and we have wholesalers concerned that not a lot of R-22 is coming back for reclaim.

Two reasons motivate us to do a better job with HCFCs. One is to show those watching us that we can be environmentally responsible. The second, and even more practical, is that right now our present usage rate of R-22 combined with its phaseout likely will cause a shortfall around 2015. Thus, the calls to do a better job of steering away from R-22 and patching up the leaks. That will stretch out the time frame.

Publication date:04/02/2007