5. Clinton Administration Retreats on Ozone Crisis

by Project Censored
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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.