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CARB Adopts Regulation to Reduce GHG Emissions From DIY Refrigerant Cans

The California Air Resources Board (ARB) today adopted a regulation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the use of cans of refrigerants by do-it-yourselfers to recharge the air-conditioning systems of cars.

The regulation includes a deposit and recycling program patterned after a recent and successful pilot program by industry in Southern California. It will cost an estimated $11 for each ton of greenhouse gases prevented from entering the atmosphere. The original 2007 proposal to ban the do-it-yourself cans outright carried an estimated cost of $159 per ton.

The automotive refrigerant currently in wide use, HFC-134a, is a potent greenhouse gas with a global warming impact 1,300 times greater than carbon dioxide. A single 12-ounce small can of this refrigerant is equivalent to 1,000 pounds of CO2 or the emissions from an automobile burning 50 gallons of gasoline.

The regulation, one of a series of discrete early action measures under AB 32, California’s climate change legislation, has four major components:

  • Better container technology. A self-sealing valve on all small containers of automotive refrigerant sold in California will prevent emissions of any content remaining in a used container.

  • Improved labeling instructions for use.

  • A new industry-run container deposit and recycling program to recover and recycle refrigerant remaining in a used can.

  • A manufacturer-developed education program so the consumer can use the best techniques for recharging an air conditioner.

The proposed regulation is estimated to achieve greenhouse gas emissions reductions of more than 250,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents per year in 2020, and will add about $1 to the purchase price of a can. Online pricing for a 12 oz. can of 134a refrigerant currently runs between around $4-6.

ARB staff has worked since October 2007 on this regulation with a broad spectrum of stakeholders, including the affected industry. It also received input during a series of public workshops and workgroup meetings to develop a proposal that it says achieves emission reductions in the most cost-effective manner possible.

This regulation marks an important step forward in the state’s effort to control and reduce emissions from powerful chemicals and coolants that contribute greatly to global warming. It is also California’s first enforceable action to directly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles, helping to establish a complementary national approach to address the wide range of emissions from cars that directly contribute to global warming.

—Mary D. Nichols, ARB Chairman



So much politics. In 1987 the Montreal Protocol set limits on CFCs to avoid a catastrophic reduction of the ozone layer. At that time the fear was a huge ozone layer hole that would result in potential warming and greater exposure to UVradiation. The fix was introduction of HCFCs including this very HFC134A! projected for phase-IN through 2030.

Today HCFC134A is reclassified as a GHG purely for political purpose as it more rightly belongs in the real pollutant category of emissions. And of course we still have HCFC 410A and HFC 407C to contend with.

A recent study suggests that the ozone layer problem was not the result of upper atmosphere reacting with CFCs chlorine - but some unknown phenomenon possibly related to cosmic high energy particles.

i.e. Don't put away the sunblock.

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