Yes we can! That’s the message from the US president on going green but will Europe listen?
This issue of RAC magazine (free to view online - simply register) is decidedly Cooling-focused, but I won’t bang on about it here, as I talk about it enough within the supplement. But I recommend you have a look through, especially if you are interested in a) natural refrigerants; b) heat recovery and integrated systems, and c) smartphone technology, as there are some pretty whizzy innovations in there.
The other overriding theme in this issue I think is how the US is progressing on its journey towards refrigerants that are better for the environment.
Now, considering that the US is often characterised as behind the curve on green refrigeration I think it is due for reappraisal. Because it seems clear that the continent is intent on making up for lost ground and the way it is doing it should teach our European policymakers a lesson or two.
The first sign that the US seriously wanted to get its house in order was when its federal environment body the EPA announced its intention to phase down high-GWP refrigerants.
Now when the EU suggested banning high-GWP gases, within the new F-Gas regulations, its date of 2020 initially gave everyone a sharp intake of breath.
By contrast the US authorities decided six years was far too long and so the proposal on the table is just two. The American authorities have clearly reasoned that since for some sectors it is practically feasible to get shot of R404A now, there is nothing wrong with a bit of ‘incentive’ to get on and do it.
The second sign of serious intent is the way that the EPA has tackled one of its biggest retailers over its woeful record on refrigerant leakage (see p8 of RAC October).
Costco is a big outfit, but it had been very careless – lawyers prevent me from saying wilfully negligent – over leakage. So the EPA made a public example of them by imposing a mandatory refrigerant management plan.
My question, dear reader, is when have you seen such proactivity from authorities in Europe?
When it comes to leakage, there have been no such prosecutions in Europe that I know of, certainly not in the UK. And when it comes to flouting regulations, well, Daimler has thumbed its nose at the MAC Directive for the past 18 months and what has the European Commission done?
And the third way the US has shown leadership is in its commitment to finding lower-GWP alternatives. Last month’s White House event, reported on p4 of RAC October, was clearly one of those government events where you are only allowed to attend if you bring good news. For a start the US cooling industry has committed $5bn to researching the new refrigerants.
That’s quite a sum – but the bigger news is that the US government appears to be really backing the push for change, with President Obama putting his name to the campaign and a federal programme to go with it.
Can you imagine the Tory government backing refrigerants in such a big way? Or David Cameron announcing a programme for investing in the low-GWP cooling industry? Me neither.
So credit where it’s due to the US. I wonder whether Europe will respond with its own combination of carrot and stick.