You don’t need to understand this article to know you’ve been screwed again

Remember when Congress banned freon to save us from the ozone hole? Turns out the replacement causes global warming [sic] so the switch is on again. result: still worse performance, still more expense and, naturally, yet another product to be banned in a few years when scientists discover what’s wrong with this one.

Here’s Popular Mechanic’s take on the subject. I can’t follow much of it, but the conclusion is obvious enough.

Fifteen years ago, the auto industry was forced to drop CFC-based refrigerant R-12 because of its liability for ozone depletion. They switched to non-CFC-based R-134a, which, as it turned out, also provided a substantial reduction in greenhouse gas liability. How much better is R-134a? Carbon dioxide has a global warming rating of 1. R-12 has a rating of 12,000. In other words, one pound of R-12 has the equivalent effect on global warming as 6 tons—12,000 pounds—of CO2. Years ago, that made R-134a’s rating of 1400 seem like a better deal. (As a point of reference, it takes one or two pounds of CO2 to dispense an entire keg of beer). But now automakers are considering a new refrigerant for worldwide use— R-1234yf. This new refrigerant has a global-warming impact number of just 4.

There is no intent to retrofit R-134a systems with the new R-1234yf, in the way many R-12 systems were haphazardly converted to R-134a. R-134a will remain available to service existing systems, and R-1234yf systems will use specific fittings, which should minimize accidental mixing of the two refrigerants. R-1234yf is slightly less efficient than R-134a. Of course, R-134a is less efficient than R-12, and auto manufacturers had to modify and upgrade systems to maintain good cooling performance when the last changeover was mandated. They’ll need to do so again.

R-1234yf will first appear in all-new European vehicles, so we might see some R-1234yf systems here by late 2011, with significant numbers starting in 2012.

Although R-134a continues to be available in small cans to DIYers, California will soon require self-sealing can valves and large deposit fees to encourage recycling of any leftover refrigerant in partially used cans. Whether R-1234yf will also be available in small cans is uncertain. Pro technicians are legally required to recover, recycle and reuse all auto a/c refrigerants. And that means that repair shops will have to purchase yet another expensive recycling machine for R-1234yf and inventory a larger collection of fittings and replacement parts, costs ultimately passed on to consumers.

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One response to “You don’t need to understand this article to know you’ve been screwed again

  1. pulled up in OG

    Reads like it’s an industry development (maybe to meet a goal, at least not a direct mandate) – “But now automakers are considering a new refrigerant for worldwide use.”
    With the commies doing most of the development work.

    Global warming or not, it’s still less shit in the air – never a bad idea. If only the coal biz was so obliging.