As a high priority Early Action Measure against climate change, California may prohibit the sale of "do-it-yourself" high global warming refrigerants for cars. R744 (CO2 ) emerges as the likely sustainable alternative.
Under the new legislation the sale of refrigerant cans containing R134a would be prohibited before 2010 to avoid accidental release of the refrigerant while re-filling the air conditioning system. The ban of canned refrigerants is intended to avoid any non-professional servicing of the cooling system by vehicle owners. It will significantly increase the maintenance cost for systems using HFC-134a by requiring a professional servicing at around $150 versus the current self-made recharge at about $15. This could make refrigerants with low servicing costs, such as the natural refrigerant CO2 (R744), highly attractive for customers.
--image1--The canned refrigerant ban is one of three Early Action Measures recommended by California's Air Resources Board's (CARB) staff to be most efficient and feasible in the short run to combat global warming. In its meeting on 21 June, CARB's direction board approved the "reduction of refrigerant losses from motor vehicle air conditioning maintenance" under Group 1 GHG rules for immediate adoption and implementation.
At present, an estimated 8.7 million kilograms of the refrigerant are sold in the US each year, and 6% of that alone in California.
Critics call for restrictions of HFC-134a in other sectors
The restricted use of HFC-134a has sparked diverse reactions, with environmental groups calling for stricter measures to comply with the ambitious targets set forth under AB 32. CARB's environmental justice committee voted last month to recommend the replacement of the can ban with a broader set of restrictions on HFC-134a in several applications, such as commercial and residential air conditioning systems. Although this proposal is not reflected in the latest approved version, CARB has already announced further measures in the period 2007-2009 to target other greenhouse gas sources, including trucks and commercial freezers.
In 2006, California signed AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act, into law to reduce the State's greenhouse gas levels to the 1990 levels by 2020 and achieve a 25% emissions cut compared to business as usual. The approved early action measures are mandated by AB32 to ensure steady progress in mitigating climate change.
CARB is initiating work on another 23 emission reduction measures in the 2007-2009 period, with rulemaking to occur as soon as possible where applicable. CARB's staff will consult with the industry to consider other options and to work through the regulatory process bringing the most viable approach back to the Board for consideration.