Noting that it might seem like a contradiction, The Car Connection (TCC) website said one of the world's leading HVAC suppliers is betting that the greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, can actually help improve the environment.

According to TCC, Behr is pitching a new air conditioning system that replaces the refrigerant, R134a, with CO2. The head of the German supplier's technical centre, Thomas Heckenberger, told TCC that, on a typical European car, older A/C systems use 0.62 litres of fuel for every 100 kilometres they are driven and even today's more efficient designs still require 0.53 l/100 kmh - a comparable CO2 air conditioner would lower consumption to 0.47 litres.

TCC said that, since fuel consumption directly translates into the production of CO2, that would yield a significant reduction in the amount of the gas actually released into the atmosphere and, as refrigerants eventually may leak out of automotive systems, CO2 is still about 150 times less damaging to the ozone layer than R134a, according to Heckenberger.

The Car Connection said Behr officials admit the new technology likely will be more expensive, at least initially, because of the need for special high-pressure hoses and fittings but the technology - or some alternative - is likely to get a big boost from the European Community, which intends to order the phase-out of R134a, starting later this decade.