The Obama administration and refrigeration suppliers have joined in an effort to reduce greenhouse gases, a move that will affect use of refrigerants in trucks.
R-134a, used in auto and truck air conditioning systems, and R-404a, used in transport refrigeration units, are among the compounds that are likely to be phased out under the agreement.
Through a combination of commitments by suppliers and executive actions, the administration aims to gradually reduce hydroflourocarbons (HFCs) that it described as among the strongest of greenhouse gases.
The move signals U.S. leadership on climate issues before a United Nations Climate Summit scheduled next week in New York City, the administration said.
HFCs, used in air conditioning and refrigeration, are up to 10,000 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, which is itself blamed for global warming because there is so much of it in the atmosphere.
CO2 as emitted from internal combustion engines is being regulated. But as a refrigerant it is relatively benign because it is less powerful and is usually not released during operation. Thus CO2 is a likely replacement for the much stronger HFCs, suppliers have said.
“Unless we act now, U.S. HFC emissions are expected to nearly double by 2020 and triple by 2030,” the administration said in a statement.
Among the trucking suppliers that have joined the effort are Carrier Transicold and Thermo King. Both have pledged to bring non-HFC refrigerants to market over the next decade.
Carrier said it already has developed a carbon dioxide system for marine refrigerators and is working on a similar system for trucks.
Thermo King said it will offer truck and trailer refrigerants that have about half of the global warming potential of current products. The company will soon announce its plans for Europe, a spokesperson said.
The new refrigerant will be available starting next year in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and in the U.S. when the Environmental Protection Agency approves the compounds.
These companies are joining 20 other businesses and trade groups in the effort to reduce HFCs. Among them are the Alliance for Responsible Atmospheric Policy, which represents more than 95% of HFC production, and the Air Conditioning Heating & Refrigeration Institute.
On the executive side, the administration has directed federal agencies to use safer alternatives to HFCs whenever they can, and is looking for alternative cooling technologies for federal buildings. It also is encouraging private investment in low emissions technology and funding research into HFC alternatives.