The envelope has been opened, and although the acceptance speeches were short and the t.v. coverage light, today’s Environmental Health News puts the spotlight on the winners of the 2013 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards:
- For Greener Synthetic Pathways Life Technologies Corporation Safe, Sustainable Chemistries for the Manufacturing of PCR Reagents
- For Greener Reaction Conditions The Dow Chemical Company EVOQUETM Pre-Composite Polymer Technology
- For Designing Greener Chemicals Cargill, Inc. Vegetable Oil Dielectric Insulating Fluid for High-Voltage Transformers
- For Small Business Faraday Technology, Inc. Functional Chrome Coatings Electrodeposited from a Trivalent Chromium Plating Electrolyte
- For Academic Professor Richard P. Wool of the University of Delaware Sustainable Polymers and Composites: Optimal Design
The EPA’s green chemistry initiative seeks to develop new technologies that are both environmentally benign and commercially viable. The Challenge Awards are given to technologies “not just because they have great potential, but because they have shown they can achieve that potential,” said Jim Jones, EPA Assistant Administrator for Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention.
OK, but what does this really mean for us? How do you make insulating fluid for transformers très cool for non-tech enviros working to keep the planet from melting down and our environment less toxic? Let’s break it down from EHN:
1. Cargill’s new soybean-oil based product is poised to replace the petroleum-based mineral oils used in coolants that now keep 90% of U.S. electrical transformers on line.
(As we retire the fossil fuel-derived mineral oils, let’s not overlook the yeoman’s work they did replacing the even more noxious polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which were used to keep high-voltage electrical equipment from overheating until banned in the late 1970s.)
2. This new product is “carbon neutral, non-toxic, and non-hazardous.”
I would add a fourth, bonus point: maybe it will provide a new market for Cargill’s abundance of soybean oil and make it easier for smart public health policy to push that substance off our processed food-laden plates?
The Green Challenge Awards have been given since 1996. A panel of technical experts convened by the American Chemical Society made the 2013 selections, based on the entrants’ life cyle environmental impacts, from the start of production to waste disposal. According to the EPA, over the past 18 years, it has received 1,500 entries and made awards to 93 technologies, whose existence has resulted in eliminating enough hazardous chemicals to fill a train of railroad tank cars 47 miles long.
Terry Collins, Director for the Institute for Green Science at Carnegie Mellon University, succinctly sums up the goal of green chemistry and why we should celebrate these awards: Being a successful green chemist “requires a basic change in attitude from thinking not only about how to make a high performance product to understanding what it means not to injure life with chemical products.”