Greenpeace branded F-gases (refrigerant chemicals) as “the worst greenhouse gases you’ve never heard of” long ago, but a study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has confirmed that the chemicals are a much more dangerous global warming threat than previously thought.
The paper, authored by scientists from the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, Dupont, and the U.S. government agencies NOAA and EPA, projects that hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) emissions will rise fast enough in the coming years to cancel out much of the work already done to combat greenhouse gases through clean energy technology and energy efficiency. F-gases are used in many everyday products, including refrigeration and air conditioning units in buildings, homes, cars, trucks, trains. Fortunately, we can still quell the rise of HFC emissions before they get out of control.
Greenpeace launched its HFC-free “Greenfreeze” refrigerant technology in 1992, and now there are approximately 300 million Greenfreeze-type fridges in use worldwide (outside the U.S.) from companies like Haier, Whirlpool, Samsung, Miele and Electrolux. The deployment has eliminated 43,000 pounds of HFCs. That’s the equivalent of 61 million tons of carbon dioxide or the pollution from 10 million cars.
But it’s not enough. Greenfreeze’s hydrocarbon (HC) system isn’t yet certified by the EPA in the United States, and until it is, the technology can’t be used. The EPA has held off on approving HC as a refrigerant due to concerns about flammability–concerns that Greenpeace claims can be mitigated with safety measures in production and design. Last year, Greenpeace negotiated with the agency to test 2,000 Greenfreeze freezers in Ben & Jerry’s stores throughout the U.S. And last October, General Electric applied to the EPA for permission to sell the refrigerators to the consumer market. If G.E.’s request is granted, companies that sell Greenfreeze refrigerators in other countries will undoubtedly bring them to the U.S. Let’s hope the EPA moves to make Greenfreeze mainstream soon.