The White House recently announced its Climate Action Plan which targets to replace the usage of super greenhouse gases called hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in air-conditioning and refrigeration with new methods that require less HFC. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has teamed up with other agencies and industry leaders all over the world to set this plan into motion.

In November this year, world leaders will attend the 27th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol in Dubai. The Montreal Protocol is a convention that focuses on phasing out the production of harmful substances such as HFCs that cause ozone depletion. HFCs are 10,000 times more potent than carbon dioxide in trapping heat and even tiny amounts of it in the atmosphere can destroy the ozone, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

The White House mentioned that the EPA, alongside the application of the Clean Air Act, had proposed standards to control leakage and intentional releases from equipment that contains HFC. The EPA will also go into a second set of rules called the Significant New Alternative Policy or SNAP, which is a proposal that includes safer and newer alternatives for air-conditioning and refrigeration.

White House energy and climate adviser Dan Utech explained that if HFC emissions were reduced in the United States, it will have a huge impact on the climate.

"[The new commitments] will reduce consumption of HFCs by the equivalent of 1 billion tons of CO2 between now and 2025," Utech said. "That's the equivalent of taking 210 million cars off the road."

Meanwhile, the DOE plans to develop new heating and air-conditioning technologies that will have zero or minimal effect on the environment. One example is a technology that utilizes magnets to create the cooling effect similar to the effect that traditional compressors produce. The department has invested about $8 million to advance research and development in these technologies.

One problem that was raised by world leaders is whether refriegerants with low global warming potential (GWP) can be efficient in high ambient temperature conditions of up to 131 degrees Fahrenheit. With this, the DOE worked with Oak Ridge National Laboratory to examine the issue. Researchers discovered that there are viable replacements for these refrigerants.

Energy officials hope that the results of the research can add up to the talks of amendment at the Montreal Protocol. If done, the replacements can significantly prevent further increase in global temperature, experts say.

Photo: Argonne National Laboratory | Flickr

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