our opinions: SERVICE PROVIDERS In The Comfort Zone SEPTEMBER 2016 PA R K E R C O U N T Y T O D AY By Brett Hobson, CEO Comfort Experts Where were you 15 years ago on that fateful day for our country? Almost overnight it seems that everything changed, politically, socially and even in the way we do business. Everyone remembers where he or she was on that day and remembers how he or she first heard of the tragedy. For us, we took every employee off of every job where they were working and sent them straight home to their families. Looking at today there are subtle changes everywhere because of 9/11. Taking a commercial flight is different; everything from your telephone to your shoes is suspect. Security at sporting events, schools and large businesses has never been tighter. But some of the changes that have occurred in the past 15 years have nothing to do with safety and security and everything to do with overreaching government regulation. Some of the changes have been good ones. According to the Washington Post the U.S. has become less dependent on foreign fuel. Our domestic production of natural gas as an alternate fuel is at its highest level in decades. Much of that is because of technological changes in extraction of the gas. As a country we never again want to be dependent on a region with so much uncertainty for our fuel future. Other changes that have come about have especially affected the banking industry. In 2001, then President Bush signed the Patriot Act into law. It was important legislation that provided banks a wide range of new tools to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism. It requires financial institutions to reasonably collect information and verify the identities of their customers. The verification records are then maintained and checked against a list of suspected or known terrorists. It was disturbing to many that the 9/11 terrorists had been able to open bank accounts and make questionable deposits using falsified information to set up the accounts. As an air conditioner service company, we are victims of the cost of the parts and materials we need. Unfortunately for us, and our customers, when 72 the cost of the parts and materials we use because changes in regulations, these increases are passed along to our customers. One of the items that we use in our business is R-22 Freon. Its cost has increased over the past 15 years from $30 wholesale to more th an $600. The reason is because about 25 years ago, the EPA ordered the phasing out of R-22 (Freon) as part of the international treaty on protecting the ozone layer called the “Montreal Protocol,” because of the refrigerant’s ozone-depleting substances. All production ended in 2010 for new air conditioning units that used R-22 and production of the refrigerant itself was reduced by 75 percent. As of 2015, R-22 production has dropped by 90 percent. By 2020, it will no longer be produced at all. Wholesalers in other parts of the world have warehouses full of the refrigerant, but because of current regulations, it can’t be shipped here in the quantities it’s needed so prices rise as the supply dwindles. According to the Hartland Initiative, the government is replacing the old R22 Freon with a more “environmentally safe” R410a fluid so as to protect the ozone. Not surprisingly, R410a is incompatible with the older A/C systems. For homeowners, this means that should they choose to “upgrade” to the new system, they will have to replace not only their A/C unit, but the interior lines and coils in their central air unit inside the house. The cost can reach into the thousands. I agree with more regulations being put on flight schools that teach foreign students how to fly airplanes. I agree that banks that allow them to launder money and finance terrorism should be made to face the consequences, and also with changes in the oil and gas industry to make us more energy independent. But I don’t think raising tariffs and limiting supplies of a bottle of Freon that your older model air conditioner uses to keep your house cool is necessary to keep us safe. We all need to look around us and see how much added regulation costs us all as consumers.