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Polyurethanes Industry Supports EPA Regulation to Quickly Phase Down HFCs in the United States

Replacing HFCs with low GWP foam blowing agents helps building owners, appliance manufacturers, and others meet sustainability goals

Tom Flanagin

Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are highly potent greenhouse gases (GHGs) that are common in products like refrigerators, air conditioners, insulation and many others. The chemical industry has made significant investments in new technologies to replace these chemicals with more environmentally favorable alternatives. Some alternatives have a global warming potential (GWP) that is 1400 times lower than that of HFCs. Transitioning away from HFCs presents an opportunity to significantly reduce GHG emissions and help fight climate change. In December 2020, the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act was signed into law, which provided the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with the authority to phase down the use of HFCs.

Industry is Helping Lead the Charge to Support a More Sustainable Future

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) fully supports the phase down of HFCs for low GWP blowing agents. This past May, the Center for the Polyurethanes Industry (CPI) submitted a petition to the EPA under the AIM Act to phase down the use of HFCs in the polyurethane sector. The petition requests that EPA reinstate restrictions on HFCs from the Significant New Alternatives Policy program effective Jan. 1, 2023.

U.S. and ACC member companies have been developing formulations that contain low GWP alternatives for almost a decade. These new low GWP formulations replace HFCs and will sharply reduce the source of GHG emissions in materials like rigid polyurethane appliance foam, high and low pressure spray polyurethane foam, among others. These materials are used in consumer products like refrigerators and water heaters, and industries like building and construction.

A Practical Example of Meaningful Change

Spray foam provides an all-in-one insulation and air sealing product for homes and buildings, with an exceptional environmental upside. It completely seals the building envelope, preventing unwanted airflow — thus increasing both the building’s energy efficiency and durability while offsetting the negative environmental impacts often associated with heating and cooling. These qualities make spray foam blowing agents low GWP products, meaning that they have low contributions to global warming.

While it’s pretty evident that spray foam is already a great tool for reaching a lower-carbon future, the spray foam industry has been taking steps to even further reduce its GWP.

Members of the spray foam industry have recently begun phasing out the use of HFCs and replacing them with low GWP blowing agents, such as hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs). This will sharply cut a sizeable source of GHG emissions, thereby further reducing the GWP of spray foam products.

Environmental sustainability is a top priority of ACC, and we are committed to working with the EPA to dramatically lower GHG emissions. Back in April, ACC issued a set of policy recommendations to reduce emissions, one of those being a phasedown of HFCs.

We are excited to see the EPA take the next step in transitioning away from HFCs in favor of low GWP alternatives, and we look forward to helping further reduce the impact that already environmentally sound products like spray foam have on global warming.  

About the Author
American Chemistry Council

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) represents the leading companies engaged in the multibillion-dollar business of chemistry. ACC members apply the science of chemistry to make innovative products, technologies and services that make people's lives better, healthier and safer. ACC is committed to improved environmental, health, safety and security performance through Responsible Care®; common sense advocacy addressing major public policy issues; and health and environmental research and product testing. ACC members and chemistry companies are among the largest investors in research and development, and are advancing products, processes and technologies to address climate change, enhance air and water quality, and progress toward a more sustainable, circular economy.

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