The Biden administration finalized a regulation that will impact appliances and proposed another that could do the same on Friday.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced two actions targeting the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), chemicals commonly used in refrigerators and air conditioners, as part of the administration’s wider climate agenda, the agency announced Friday. The EPA proposed one HFC-related action and finalized another, the latter of which will restrict HFCs in 40 types of imported or domestically-produced foams, aerosols, refrigeration equipment, air conditioning and heat pumps and push the relevant markets towards embracing more energy efficient products.
“Today’s actions embody President Biden’s leadership on the climate crisis by tackling these planet warming chemicals while investing in American technology and innovation,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said. “This final rule supports our transition away from HFCs and positions our nation to be competitive on the global stage.”
Compliance dates for the finalized HFC regulation range from 2025 to 2028, according to the EPA. Meanwhile, the proposed action would establish a “program to manage emissions reduction and reclamation of HFCs and their substitutes would help minimize HFC leaks across the lifespan of existing equipment, such as air conditioners and refrigeration systems, while also maximizing the reuse of existing HFCs,” according to the EPA.
As is the case with most appliances, more energy efficient air conditioners and refrigerators tend to be more expensive up front for consumers, according to Energy Theory. About 90% of American households used air conditioning units in 2020 to cool their homes, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, and HFC-free air conditioning systems are “considerably more expensive” than systems that use HFCs, according to Nicolas Loris, former Herbert and Joyce Morgan Fellow for the Heritage Foundation.
The EPA estimates that the actions announced Friday will drive $4.5 billion worth of savings for producers and consumers over the long-term.
Friday’s regulatory actions build upon July’s announcement of a final EPA rule that will reduce the overall use of HFCs by 40% relative to the historical baseline between 2024 and 2028. The July regulation and Friday’s actions are in line with the Kigali Amendment, an international agreement to gradually eliminate HFCs, that President Joe Biden signed on behalf of the U.S. in 2022.
The Biden administration has issued regulations that directly or indirectly pressure markets to shift towards more energy efficient, and often more expensive, appliances. Before today’s announcements, federal agencies have proposed or finalized rules focused on portable gas-powered generators, water heaters and pool pump motors.
Neither the White House nor the EPA responded immediately to requests for comment.
Nick Pope on October 6, 2023