The Feb. 2 issue ofThe Newswill offer the latest in refrigerant-related information. Included will be feedback from major manufacturers and distributors of refrigerants in response to a number of questions that we know are on the minds of contractors and technicians.

It is just one more effort to help readers through the maze and haze of this ever-changing sector of our industry.

In fact, we gave those responding to our questions until just a couple of weeks before the material appears in print so their responses could be as up to date as possible.

One challenge in dealing with the topic is that refrigerants are now immersed in a massive array of regulations that span a wide range of governmental bodies from the local to the international level and an equally wide range of agencies within any one level.

Then there are "conversation starters," proposals to one government agency that in turn uses that as the basis for another proposal to another government agency. There are also "directives" (whatever that means), and even "final regulations" (although "final" may not be final). And such legal mumbo jumbo could encompass the manufacturer or user of refrigerants, as well as the handling of said products.

Tough Sledding

From time to time, I receive material from governmental agencies and environmental groups in Europe designed to provide accurate information on what's happening over there. Every effort is made to describe developments correctly, which can make for some mind-numbing phrasing.

Consider the following three items, quoted word for word:

  • "Guido Sacconi MEP (Italy, PSE), the Rapporteur on the proposal for a monitoring mechanism of Community greenhouse gas emission, presented his report to the Environment Committee of the European Parliament. The report supported fully the commission propels as the Rapporteur believes that ‘the harmonisation of information reporting is the trump card with which to address international obligations on emission reduction.'"

  • "The EPEE submitted a complaint to the European Commission concerning an Austrian Order that imposes a general ban on the import, sale, and use of three synthetic greenhouse gases. The order was adopted purportedly to help Austria comply with commitments flowing from the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. However, EPEE considers that the Order is not necessary to achieve the Kyoto objective of emission reduction."

  • "Switzerland notified its modification to the draft Ordinance on dangerous substances for the environment, covering fluorinated gases to the Committee of Technical Barriers to Trade (CTBT) of the WTO in May 2002. The European Commission prepared observations on the Swiss proposal notified through EFTA and the WTO."

    The report that those quotes were drawn from goes on for eight pages. Having followed developments in Europe for a number of years now, I am able to offer a general idea as to what all the above is about. In its simplest form, some governments in some countries in Europe are pushing to phase out HFCs in their countries because of the greenhouse issue.

    But broader-based agencies and governmental groups are trying to get all of Europe on the same page - and that is preserving the use of HFCs for as long as possible, and certainly not getting rid of them until viable alternatives are available - even if no one is ready to define "viable."

    All of this is by way of saying that we at The News make every effort to tell you how the refrigerant issue impacts you as contractors and technicians. It is just that it is often difficult to figure out what those who have a say in such matters are saying.

    Peter Powell is refrigeration editor. He can be reached at 847-622-7260, 847-622-7266 (fax), or

    Publication date: 01/12/2004