The war on air conditioners continues

  • 10 March 2020
  • NormanL

The calendar says Spring is almost here, with milder days soon to come. For government bureaucrats and members of Congress, however, it's never too early to think about summer, and how to undermine one of our most effective tools for fighting heat and humidity: air conditioning. As the Competitive Enetrprise Institute notes, the push to eliminate certain chemicals used to cool indoor air had its roots in the Obama administration, and has united crony capitalists and environmentalists:

The proposed restrictions on HFCs will raise future repair bills on the tens of millions of units that require them as supplies dwindle and prices rise. Brand new air conditioners would likely also go up in price as they are redesigned to use one of the new refrigerants under consideration by manufacturers.

The demise of HFCs would be great news for Honeywell and Chemours and their substitute compounds used in everything from car air conditioners to supermarket refrigeration equipment. Both companies produce some of these compounds in the U.S., but also in China, so this measure won’t be the domestic jobs bonanza its supporters claim.

In addition, several of these new refrigerants are classified as flammable, so homeowners may face new risks along with the new costs.

The Democrat-controlled House has its own version of the refrigerant restrictions, which faces a tough opponent in Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), who at a recent hearing, drew upon his years of experience running a residential air conditioners repair business to spell out in detail how badly it would hit homeowners.

Rather than pile on more red tape that boosts the cost of staying cool, Congress should work with the Trump administration to reduce those costs. One good pro-consumer move would be to allow limited production of Freon-22 for a few more years to service the older air conditioners that still need it. Another would be to reject any measures restricting the HFCs required for the newer units. 

Washington usually avoids sensible approaches if money and favors are on the line. But here, there's a good way to push ahead with sensible changes that reach the desired environmental goals without punishing consumers.