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CFC replacement efforts are paying off, as buildup of chemicals slows, says NOAA.

Damage to the ozone layer in the stratosphere may begin to abate as early as the turn of the century, thanks to concerted efforts by the refrigeration and other industries as well as world governments to halt the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the United States announced towards the end of August that emissions of two of the most important ozone destroyers, CFC-11 and CFC-12, had been reduced at a considerably faster pace than expected.

"Here is a beautiful case study of science and public policy working well," beamed Dr. James W. Elkins of NOAA's climate diagnostics laboratory in Boulder, Colorado, when he announced the findings. "We were all caught off guard by the slowing of the buildup. We didn't expect it to occur so soon."

Public policy is reflected in the Montreal Protocol, first adopted in 1987 and amended repeatedly since then to speed up the elimination of CFCs. Efforts to phase out CFCs were backed from the start by the refrigeration industry, and such giant chemical companies as E.I. du Pont de Nemours, at a time when a Reagan administration official in the US was still denying that there was any serious ozone depletion problem.

In the United States, efforts have been led by the Commercial Refrigerator Manufacturers Association, and by the Alliance for Responsible CFC Policy, which has held annual technical conferences on alternative refrigerants and refrigeration technologies. The CFC Alliance has promoted a faster phaseout of CFCs, while arguing that alternative hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) should continue to be permitted. Another segment of the industry, however, is betting on ammonia.

The latest news from NOAA may relieve the pressure to ban HCFCs and HFCs -- the former are already scheduled for elimination in 2030. But it may also put the kibosh on efforts to market such non-CFC technologies as the Stirling engine. David Howard, a Colorado engineer, recently patented an improved Stirling engine for refrigerators that he says can be run with hot or cold inert gases, hot or cold wastewater, or solar power. His design allows liquid inside a cylinder to act like a piston, thus eliminating the need for the piston itself or piston rings, and making a Stirling refrigerator cheaper to manufacture. It is expansion and contraction of the liquid, under pressure from gas or wastewater, that creates the refrigeration effect.

Even if the news from NOAA seems good, there's still a long way to go, warned Michael Oppenheimer, an atmospheric scientist with the Environmental Defense Fund. Recovery of the ozone layer will be extremely slow, because CFC-11 lingers for at least 40 years once it gets there, and CFC-12 may hang on for up to 140 years. Moreover, Oppenheimer pointed out, there are other CFCs to worry about, not to mention such chemicals as the pesticide methyl bromide.
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Title Annotation:chlorofluorocarbons; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Date:Oct 1, 1993
Words:474
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