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EPA: New Refrigerant Fights Climate Change, Ozone Depletion

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Turn on your car air conditioner in a few years and it will be different and better, says the Environmental Protection Agency.  On Monday, the agency announced the approval of a new refrigerant, called HFO-1234yf, which it says does not deplete the Earth's ozone layer and has a so-called global warming potential that is 99.7 percent less than coolants currently used.

All this is fallout from the discovery, back in the mid-1980s, that the ozone layer was being damaged by the use of chloroflourocarbons -- CFCs for short -- in everything from air conditioners to the manufacturing of foam for coffee cups.  World governments got together relatively quickly. In 1987 the Reagan administration and 195 other countries signed on to the Montreal Protocol, which has been updated several times since, agreeing to phase out most ozone-depleting chemicals by 2030.

By the early 1990s the most common refrigerant for car air conditioners, known as CFC-12, had been replaced in the United States by one called HFC-134.  But it was a stopgap measure.  HFC-134 in the upper atmosphere is very potent at trapping heat in the air. So Honeywell and DuPont have developed HFO-1234yf. General Motors, among others, has said it will use it in its 2013 model cars.

"This new chemical helps fight climate change and ozone depletion," said Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation in a statement. "It is homegrown innovative solutions like this that save lives and strengthen our economy."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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