Source: IN THESE TIMES, Date: 1/24/94, Title: “Full of holes: Clinton’s retreat on the ozone crisis,” Author: David Moberg
SYNOPSIS: Since the United States banned chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) aerosols in the late `70s, increasing evidence has revealed that both the destruction of the ozone layer and the resulting dangers to human health and the ecosystem are far more serious than scientists had first recognized.
The ozone hole over Antarctica has continued to grow every year since its discovery in 1985 and damage to the ozone layer over heavily populated areas of the Northern Hemisphere also has been increasing rapidly. Scientists recorded all-time low levels of ozone over the United States in 1993.
The ultraviolet rays that penetrate a weakened ozone layer have been linked to increased cataracts, skin cancer, genetic damage and infectious diseases among humans-as well as reduced plant growth. Meanwhile, the Clinton administration has been moving backward on protecting the stratospheric ozone layer. This ominous precedent will encourage other industrial countries to stall on their own CFC phase-outs and puts the administration in a far weaker position to argue for an accelerated phase-out of CFCs in the developing countries where CFC production is soaring.
DuPont, the giant chemical firm which developed the first industrial CFC, had planned to halt CFC production at the end of 1994. Yet, in late 1993, EPA asked DuPont to keep making CFCs until 1996. The EPA defended its decision as a “consumer protection” measure that will make it easier for car owners to recharge their old air conditioners which use CFCs as a cooling agent.
Ozone-safe, environmentally sound cooling technologies are already available however. The Colorado-based Climatran Corp. already has produced 400 “heat-exchanger” systems currently in use in city buses in Denver and Salt Lake City. The federal Department of Transportation has found the system to use 90 percent less energy than conventional air conditioners and cost one eighth as much to maintain-for virtually the same initial purchase cost.
After two frustrating years for the manufacturer and under threat of a lawsuit, the EPA finally approved the technology last fall.
Additionally, an East German refrigerator company, in cooperation with Greenpeace, has begun manufacturing an ozone-safe refrigerator that utilizes a “Greenfreeze” technology. The consumer response has been so great that bigger companies have begun producing “Greenfreeze” models. But no U.S. company-including Whirlpool, which makes a European “Greenfreeze” model -offers this alternative in the U.S.
Bill Walsh, coordinator of Greenpeace’s U.S. atmosphere and energy campaign, charges that Clinton’s policies “reward companies that drag their feet,” such as the auto companies, and fail to encourage sound alternatives.
Unfortunately, the old revolving-door way of doing business remains intact at the EPA. Robert Sussman, the deputy administrator who requested that DuPont keep manufacturing CFCs, previously worked at a law firm that represented the Chemical Manufacturers Association.
SSU Censored Researcher: Dan Tomerlin
COMMENTS: Author David Moberg said the ozone crisis issue did not receive sufficient exposure in the mass media in 1994. “There were announcements of some changes in policy, but given the earlier high profile of the ozone crisis, recent developments were underplayed.”
The general public would benefit from knowing more about the ozone crisis by becoming more aware of the health dangers of chlorofluorocarbons and some of the alternatives being promoted. Further, Moberg said, they would become aware of a wide range of safer alternatives that deserve and need research and development support.
Groups that benefit from the limited coverage given the issue, according to Moberg, include the chemical industry, the auto industry, and other major manufacturers, including makers of appliances.