Saturday, July 05, 2008

Manufacturing LCD Screens - Worse than Coal?

A recent study says that nitrogen trifluoride, a chemical that is used in manufacturing LCD screens and semiconductors, is a very powerful greenhouse gas, which "... could cause more global warming than coal-fired power plants...." This years' emissions of nitrogen trifluoride would equal all the global-warming emissions of Australia, for example. But
"...nitrogen trifluoride and some dozen other gases [were not included in the Kyoto Protocol], in part because they weren't produced at a scale large enough to cause significant harm."
"However, LCD televisions are often painted as eco-friendly because they consume less power than plasma and older rear-projection sets."
(Source: Accessed: 2008-07-05. Archived by WebCite® at

It would be interesting to find out how much net global warming is caused by making LCD screens, when you take the global savings from burning less coal for electricity into account.

Also, as some of the comments to the cnet story suggest, it might be easier to control industrial emissions of a gas (e.g. nitrogen trifluoride) that is used in a well-defined number of factories than emissions at millions of point sources that are owned by millions of people and companies (as in CO2).

I'd love to dig deeper into this (starting with finding the original study) when I have the time.

In any event, perhaps it's time to review the list of gases under Kyoto or at least the next international agreement after Kyoto.

[Disclosure: This blog is written using an LCD screen. I also use a couple of LCD screens for work (I telecommute full-time). Our TV is a modest-sized CRT (relatively recent model, Energy Star compliant). All of these devices are bulfrogpowered with renewable electricity as mentioned in the sidebar on the right.]

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