One of the great environmental successes was supposed to be the banning of Freon and R-22 refrigerants, right? No more destruction of the ozone layer by the horrible stuff, right? The Montreal Protocol took care of it, right? The EPA says that production of new air conditioners and heat pumps was banned in 2009, right?
Wrong. Allison Bailes III explains at Energy Vanguard and Green Building Advisor that the precise wording of the EPA ruling is that:
Heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) system manufacturers may not produce new air conditioners and heat pumps containing R-22.
So instead, they are filling them with nitrogen, and letting the installers fill the units with R-22 (It is available until 2020 for maintenance of existing equipment). Checking around Allison finds that it could be as much as half the air conditioning units sold.
This isn't a new issue; I found an article in HVAC News from two years ago where manufacturers defended the decision, some claiming that lower pressure R-22 machines are better.
We believe this equipment provides the consumer with a more conscientious option for the repair choice that they are already making. This choice, when made by the consumer, is more energy efficient, reliable and protects the environment due to the highest level of leak protection offered on all controlled production units.
There were also not a few commenters at the time who complained that it was all a hoax and that the ozone hole was caused by volcanos and chlorine that naturally comes out of the ocean.
Both sides are to blame: the HVAC industry for exploiting the loophole and the EPA for not closing it. The EPA is definitely more to blame because they could have shut this down as soon as it became apparent. They still can but are dragging their feet.