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Misinformation: claim and counterclaim

Graeme Fox boldly goes where spin has gone before

A short while ago I was involved in a meeting at the Westminster offices of Berr, along with Defra and the Department for Climate Change.

We discussed the major issues facing our industry: the F-Gas Regulation and its implementation, the future of HFCs, the readiness of industry to deal with the alternative refrigerants and energy efficiency.

The main concern from the civil servants was that they are faced with “claim and counterclaim” from both sides of the argument about HFCs – industry insisting that HFC containment can be massively improved and that HFCs are more energy efficient in certain applications versus the environmentalists claims that “containment hasn’t worked” and “there are better alternatives to HFCs”.

I’d like to think that at least I’ve consistently put forward a logical argument for the position I’m coming from - and I haven’t made any bold unsubstantiated claims. I’ve also consistently freely admitted that, in certain applications, alternatives to HFCs are more efficient.

I’ve been called an “HFC champion” by the EIA as an attempt to smear my name, although I do take this as a compliment because, when HFCs are more efficient, they use less energy and I can therefore accept that I’m doing my bit for the environment. If it has its way and HFCs are banned, more energy will be consumed to power those applications where HFCs had been best, and more emissions will result at the power stations – and the EIA claims to care about the environment!

The latest bout of spin to emerge from the EIA is a classic case of over-stating its position. So soon after claiming in European trade association newsletters that it was “in concrete talks with UK Government” – in reality it has talked with a minor Labour Lord who is keen to jump onto a green bandwagon without stopping to check whether there is any truth in the EIA claims – it now boldly states that European HFC phase out is on the agenda a few days after the EC’s own head of department within Directorate-General Environment has clearly given an opposing position.

I would have thought that people have had enough of this type of politics – all spin and scaremongering. The tide is turning in Westminster and hopefully the days are numbered for the EIA to continue with this shameless reporting.

It also claimed in a press release: “Climate friendly alternatives to HFCs are available for many sectors.” I’ve asked for details of what alternatives are actually available now and I still await anything from them more than two months later.

Maybe if the EIA took the time to learn how our industry works it would realise that this is now summer (don’t look out of the window or you might not believe me!), and in summertime our customers need solutions now – for us to say we’ll have a solution in a year or two, maybe, simply doesn’t wash.

The EIA needs to stop being so disingenuous and work with industry towards our common aims – we may them approach from different viewpoints, but we have many common aims. This constant counterclaiming does nobody any good.