REFRIGERANT POLICIES AND CORPORATE INTERESTS

Recently the US Court of appeals in Washington vacated one of the environmental protection agencies most important decisions concerning the restriction of usage of hydrofluorocarbons in common applications like air conditioning and refrigeration. The majority found that the EPA lacks sufficient authority to regulate HFC’ and an appeal seems imminent.

At the same time, the European Commission published a report supporting the bans already in place, concerning HFC’s and acknowledging that the alternatives are readily available in most sectors.

These two contradicting decisions provide ample evidence that environmental policies are still very much influenced by financial and economic criteria.

The two largest producers of refrigerants based in the US, Honeywell Inc and The Chemours Co, supported the EPA ban vigorously. They are also the largest manufacturers of HFC’s alternatives and have seen that part of the business grow by more than 20% in the second quarter of 2017.

On the other hand, 2 rival, non-US companies, Mexichem and Arkema, brought the legal challenge of EPA’s authority, since there is international market share to gain if there HFC phase down is delayed.

The power struggle in this instance is clear. Resisting conspiracy theory temptation, we should acknowledge that policies affecting revenues corporations of this size, are never far out of reach of their own long-term strategies.

The two underlying conflicting ideas are whether to:

1) Impose policies with wider positive social and environmental outcomes on a free economy, or

2) Align the interests of the major players with the changes in policy.

Obviously option number one can seem unrealistic, while option number two dangerous of disregarding the common good in favor of corporate profits.

Could it be that a middle ground can be found? An approach where policies are decided and implemented based on the long-term well-being of society, while at the same time corporations are considered and given enough time to react and adjust?

After all the free economy is all about survival all the fittest.

Let’s hope this will be the case for the HFC global phase down process. Sure, money will be made in this transitional period, but we should not forget that is imperative to rigorously implement the reductions in global emissions.