July 26th, 2006

#126: And now, the AC!

The AC compressor in the '85 essentially died yesterday.

It was a hot day, I was running errands, and it began to make a squealing noise, and the air coming from the vents got hot. Hoody hoo etc, I need a new AC compressor! \""

The Hand of Sarcasm: \""

The Hand of Sarcasm indicates the use of the ironic or sarcastic mode. Sometimes it's not obvious to everyone that I am using that mode of English, so I have found the Hand of Sarcasm Emoticon (TM) to be quite useful in these circumstances.

Sometimes BOTH Hands of Sarcasm are needed: ""/ \"" Unlike the double negative, showing Both Hands of Sarcasm (TM) does not self-negate, rendering the statement non-sarcastic.

You have been warned.


Any idea what an AC compressor for a car costs these days? For a Fiero, it's

$260

That doesn't include anything else--not the clutch, the refrigerant, the oil, NOTHING.

Considering that R-12--the refrigerant that the Fiero's AC was designed to use, which used to be cheap and commonly available--is now ILLEGAL, I'm going to have to convert it to use R-134a, too.

R-12 is a chloroflourocarbon, one of those CFCs which supposedly destroys the ozone layer. A little company by the name of DuPont owned the patents on CFCs like R-12. Around the time that eco-nazis were agitating to ban CFCs, DuPont's patents on CFCs were set to expire.

Now, what happens when a patent on a widely-used, fantastically useful, and easily synthesized compound expires? Well, other people get into the act of making the stuff, and they no longer have to pay the owner of the patent for the privelege. The price drops. Price competition takes place, much more is sold, and the former patent owner gets none of the action.

DuPont had more refrigerants in its stable, like the HFC-type refrigerants such as R-134a. Hydroflourocarbons don't have chlorine in them so they are ozone-safe, and--more importantly!--they had brand-new patents on them.

DuPont supported the ban on CFCs because if no one could use CFCs, they would have to pay DuPont royalties to manufacture HFCs under DuPont's brand new patents. It was win-win for DuPont; they got maximum money out of their CFC patents and could now reasonably expect to get maximum money out of their HFC patents. I can't even fault them for it. Besides, they also got good press from the eco-nazi crowd.

HFCs do not cool as well as CFCs did, and they are not as easily synthesized as CFCs were. They're more expensive for that reason, and some others; and so a cheap and effective product has been replaced with an expensive and less-effective one.

I have here on my desk a 14-oz can of R-12. (Only one, worse luck.) I found it in the garage while cleaning, a couple of years ago, and the can has sat here ever since. Due to the law, I cannot sell or transport this can of R-12. I can own it, but I can't do anything else with it. If I have an otherwise functional car air conditioner which uses R-12 which needs 14 oz of refrigerant, I can add it to that car; but otherwise I cannot legally do anything with this can. One can isn't enough to refill the Fiero's AC system; and since I am not allowed to buy any more, the only legal use I have for this is to use it as a paperweight.

So besides replacing the AC compressor on the car, I will have to flush the system, replace all the O-rings and seals, the orofice tube, the pressure switch, and a passel of other parts, before refilling the system with R-134a at an approximate cost of $60 for two lousy cans of refrigerant.

Like many environmental laws, the ban on CFCs is predicated on shoddy science and hysteria. Ozone levels in the upper atmosphere are measured year-round, and the ozone "hole" which is supposedly the fault of CFCs shows up at times when the sun isn't shining over the poles.

The dirty little secret of ozone depletion is bifurcate.

First, ultraviolet radiation makes ozone. Ultraviolet light is an ionizing radiation, you see, and ozone (O3) is an unstable molecule. Like most gas atoms, oxygen likes to pair up, not have a menage a trois; but properly ionized, oxygen will form ozone.

If the sun is not shining--as it does not for roughly three months per year, at the poles!--ozone does not form. The ozone molecules naturally break apart--this happens constantly--and they are not replenished by the sun's ultraviolet light, so...duhh...the ozone thins!

Notice that I said "thins"? Do you know why I said "thins" and not "disappears"? Because words mean things and the ozone layer gets thinner. It does not go away.

Last year, scientists were astonished to learn that solar storms actually play a role in ozone depletion and admitted that it was hard to separate the natural effects which deplete ozone from the "man-made" effects.

As is the case with all environmental study, we simply have no long-term data on what the ozone layer has done. Ozone layer data only goes back to the 1950s; the ability to take pictures of the ozone layer (via spectrograpy and other methods, from satellites) doesn't even give us data before around 1960.

By the way, the ozone "hole" was first detected in 1956. The seasonal variation was discovered, explained, and forgotten about (except by those interested in stratospheric weather) until three decades later, in the mid-1980s, when it suddenly became a crisis.

And the "inconvenient truth" about all this is that even a healthy, un-depleted ozone layer won't protect you from skin cancer. Skin cancer is caused by Ultraviolet-A (UVA), which utterly ignores the ozone layer on its way to Earth's surface. It passes right through the ozone layer; it does not pass GO, it does not collect $200. Ultraviolet-B (UVB) is stopped by ozone; and the UVB which gets through the ozone layer simply makes more ozone near ground level, where it contributes to smog. The UVB which lands on your skin causes sunburn, but it also prompts your body to make Vitamin D. And Ultraviolet C, which would fry you to a crisp in relatively short order, doesn't give a rat's ass whether the oxygen molecule which intercepts it has two or three oxygen atoms in it.

All of which is really interesting, but utterly moot, considering that R-12 and its useful cousins, the other CFCs, are illegal to manufacture. You can't buy or sell the stuff without a license, either. All due to the specious reasoning of the environmentalists. And so that means repairing my car's air conditioner is going to cost me that much more.

Thanks an assload, jerks.