White House's New Enemy: Coolant Found in Your Home

Calls on firms, trading partners to cut down on R-134a
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 16, 2014 9:42 AM CDT
White House's New Enemy: Coolant Found in Your Home
Boxes containing bottles of refrigerant R-134a are stacked in a shipping container in China.   (AP Photo/Environmental Investigation Agency)

The Obama administration has a new goal in its effort to fight climate change: get Americans—and the world—to quickly stop using a chemical coolant found in just about every US home, car, and office. R-134a is a hydrofluorocarbon, or HFC; the chemical was used to replace ozone-damaging Freon in air conditioners and refrigerators in the 1990s. Trouble is, certain HFCs can be up to 10,000 times more dangerous per ounce than carbon dioxide when it comes to climate change, according to scientists. Today, the administration will announce that top retailers and chemical firms have voluntarily agreed to cut down on the use of such coolants, the Washington Post reports.

The manufacturers behind about 95% of American HFC production have voluntarily agreed to work with the administration to quickly offer a replacement coolant—one option, HFO-1234yf, can be subbed in for R-134a with little modification to the cooling system. The eventual eradication of R-134a will be environmentally comparable to taking 15 million cars off the highways for 10 years, an official says. Coca-Cola, Target, and Red Bull are among the firms pledging to adjust their ways by 2020, the Hill reports. (What that will look like: In the case of Coca-Cola, the company will buy only HFC-free refrigerators for all its global locations.) The plan comes ahead of a UN summit on climate change next week, which President Obama will attend; US officials are hoping the country's biggest trading partners will follow Washington's lead. (More coolant stories.)

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