The Air Up There (Don’t just do something! Stand there!!)

By John Demeter

It official!!! There are 50,000 metric tons of halon 1301 remaining in the world and 90,000 metric tons of halon 1211. (That would be 110,000,000 lbs and 198,000,000 lbs for the metrically challenged.) That’s the word from the Halon Technical Options Committee (HTOC) 2006 report to the UNEP, which reports on the worldwide status of compliance with the Montreal Protocol on Substances that deplete the ozone layer. You can link to the report here

These numbers reflect an 11,000 m/t increase in halon 1301 and a 15,000 m/t decrease in halon 1211 compared to the committee’s 2002 report. This difference, says the committee, was caused by modeling and estimated emission errors in earlier reports.

If you believe these numbers and are in, say, the commercial aviation industry, calculations will show that you have an approximately 275 year inventory available. But since we are Doubting Thomases when it comes to the modeling of 30 year old production data and measuring atmospheric emissions of halons at 30,000 feet over Dublin, let’s take that number and cut it in half. That leaves about 137 years of halon available. Anyone worried about running out of halon yet?

But what if the numbers are wrong? What if they’re not 50% overstated but 75% overstated! Well, that would leave us with 12,500 m/t and enough halon 1301 for commercial aviation for the next 69 years. Worried yet? We didn’t think so.

So why the rush to move away from halon – especially in commercial aviation? The HTOC report states (almost in an alarming manner) “Given the anticipated 25-30 year lifespan of civil aircraft, this dependency (on halons) is likely to continue well beyond the time when existing halon stocks expire.” They even talk of aircraft being grounded! Well, not if HTOC believes their own inventory numbers they won’t be! They go on to cite an “Action Plan” to help nudge the commercial aviation industry away from halons.

It seems to us that until someone comes up with an inexpensive and environmentally responsible way to destroy halon and figures out a way to pay for it, the best thing we can do for the environment is nothing! Well, not exactly nothing. From what we see the commercial aviation sector is moving forward in a planned and determined fashion and committing resources to come up with a viable replacement. Our guess is that this will happen without a nudge from HTOC.

In the meantime there is plenty of halon available and pulling the plug on halon going into commercial aviation will only contribute to the Big Hiss, which we’ve written about before (link).

So our advice to HTOC? They might want to work on what they’ve identified as “regional imbalances” of halons. What good does it do anyone for 35% of the global bank to be in Japan? If not, our advice is: Don’t just stand there! Do something!!


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