Is Joe Biden Coming After Your Air Conditioner?
America’s air conditioning season is underway, and millions of unlucky homeowners whose systems break down between now and the fall will be in for an expensive repair. And thanks to Biden Administration environmental regulations, the costs are getting even higher.
To be fair, much of the mischief predates President Biden — though he supported it all as a senator and as vice president. For example, many older central air conditioners use a refrigerant called R-22, production of which was banned on the grounds that it contributes to depletion of the ozone layer — the infamous ozone hole. As of 2020, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has outlawed new production, so only pre-existing supplies of R-22 are available. Prices have skyrocketed several times above pre-regulation levels.
Repairs of systems that require replacement of R-22 refrigerant lost through a leak — a common occurrence — can now cost $180 to $600.
Most newer air conditioners were designed to use an ozone-safe substitute refrigerant called R-410A. However, environmentalists have soured on it as well, complaining that it contributes to climate change. Green groups, allied with opportunistic manufacturers seeking a captive market for next-generation replacements, convinced Congress to limit future production in legislation passed last December. In response, the Biden EPA has already initiated an aggressive R-410A crackdown. Predictably, the price is on the rise — by about 70 percent since the law was signed — and a leak repair of these systems can now set you back $100 to $320.
Want to ditch your old A/C and buy a new one that uses a refrigerant the EPA isn’t targeting? Now we are talking thousands of dollars, and the price is likely to rise as manufacturers must redesign systems to use one of the government-approved refrigerants. Biden’s regulators are already considering measures that would further boost the price of these new systems. In addition, several of the new refrigerants are classified as mildly flammable, so there may be new risks to go along with the new costs.
Who wins in all of this? First and foremost, the makers of costly new environmentally-friendly refrigerants. Among the biggest is DuPont spinoff Chemours, which holds patents on many potential alternatives and told EPA a few years ago that “the new refrigerants represent a multi-billion dollar industry.” And it certainly doesn’t hurt that Chemours is headquartered in Biden’s home state of Delaware.
Whether it is fixing an old cooling system or buying a new one, the growing list of environmental regulations will add to the bill. If a conked out air conditioner on a 90 degree day isn’t enough to get you heated up, Washington’s costly meddling certainly will.
Ben Lieberman is a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free market think tank.