EPA cracking down on emissions from air conditioners, refrigerators

President Obama is taking executive action to crack down on emissions from air conditioners and refrigerators.

As part of the Obama administration’s climate action plan, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Energy (DOE) announced new initiatives Thursday to restrict the use of harmful chemicals known as hydrofluorocarbons.

These chemicals, often found in air conditioners and refrigerators, are 10,000 times worse for climate change than carbon, according to the agencies.


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"The challenge is, how do we transition away from these to other chemicals that can do just as well?” she asked.

The EPA will expand the list of approved “climate-friendly alternatives” that can be used instead of hydrofluorocarbons and are less harmful to the environment as part of the Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) program.

Meanwhile, the DOE is releasing the results of a study that shows these hydrofluorocarbon alternatives for air conditioners can be just as effective in high temperatures.

The Obama administration hopes these measures will reduce industry’s reliance on hydrofluorocarbons.

The EPA and the DOE are looking to add to the progress they have made since September 2014, when they first took action against hydrofluorocarbons. Altogether, agencies estimate these actions could cut carbon emissions by 1 billion metric tons, which is "equivalent to taking 210 million cars off the road for a year."

By contrast, without taking action, the use of hydrofluorocarbons would triple in the U.S. by 2030, the agencies said.

The agencies are also partnering with the private sector to develop alternative technologies that are more efficient than hydrofluorocarbons.

"What you’re looking at here is companies who realize their customers want to be healthy, they want a safe future, they want to save money, and these technologies can do it,” McCarthy said. "So the message is not to force reduction, but to encourage reduction.”