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Phased out refrigerant a smuggling commodity

New York Times story highlights rising demand for contraband coolant gases

| | Oct 14, 2012 | 6:32 pm
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New York Times story highlights rising demand for contraband coolant gases

A Chilling Effect, a Miami, September 7, 2012 datelined New York Times (NYT) story by Elisabeth Rosenthal and Andrew W Lehren, starkly brings home the harsh truth: There is a thriving global market for phased out refrigerants.

Realising the damage it causes to the ozone layer and its harmful impact on global warming, HCFC-22 has been phased out of new equipment in the industrialised countries under an international treaty. Strict limits have been imposed on the quantity that can be imported or sold in the United States by American manufacturers. Despite this, or probably because of this, there appears to be a market for this refrigerant.

According to the NYT story, the contraband under question – half a million dollars worth of HCFC-22 – was purchased from China by Marcone, a St Louis-based company, avowedly the largest authorised source for appliance parts in the United States. This reveals that the gas is still being produced in large quantities and sold illegally in developing countries and smuggled into the United States. Evidently, there is a huge profit to be made from such nefarious deals.

The incident dating back to 2009, says NYT, involved Carlos Garcia, the Marcone Vice President, who “generated big business for his company’s growing air conditioning operation by selling smuggled foreign gas to repairmen at rock bottom prices in a promotion called Freaky Freon Fridays, drawing on a brand name that many use as a synonym for coolants” (NYT). On June 26 this year, Garcia was sentenced to 13 months in federal prison, the story reported. International efforts to curb the use of HCFC-22 have been unsuccessful due to several reasons ranging from “loopholes in environmental treaties to the reluctance of manufacturers to step up development of more environmentally friendly machines,” the story added.

NOTE: This piece is based on The New York Times story “A Chilling Effect”, dated September 7, 2012, which was accessed from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/08/science/earth/ smugglers-sell-coolant-tied-to-global-warming.html?_r=3& nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_ According to NYT, articles in this series describe the impact of the rising demand for coolant gases, a growing contributor to global warming.


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