It’s time to ban gasoline-powered landscaping equipment

Landscaping equipment will soon be electric in California, while a new bill will ban gasoline-powered lawn equipment in the state – including lawn mowers and leaf blowers – in an effort to limit the air pollution. Gov. Gavin Newsom (R) on Saturday signed a bill that will stop sales of gasoline equipment with small all-terrain engines by Jan. 1, 2024. This ban could also come sooner, if California Air Resources Board (CARB) says a law is “doable”.

It is not just landscaping equipment that is part of the law. Portable gasoline generators will need to be zero-emission by 2028, according to the Los Angeles Times. Again, CARB has the final say on this end date. The law requires all newly sold small engine equipment primarily used in landscaping to be zero emission – mostly battery operated or plug-in – and include any engine producing less than 25 gross horsepower, such as lawn mowers, weed trimmers. , chainsaws, golf carts, specialty vehicles, generators and pumps.

It does not yet apply to road motor vehicles, all-terrain motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles, boats, snowmobiles or model airplanes, cars or boats.

What’s the deal with small all-terrain gasoline engines?

Every weekend, about 54 million Americans mow their lawns, use 800 million gallons of gasoline per year and produce tons of air pollutants, according to the organization, Human powered machines. Garden equipment engines – which had unregulated emissions until the late 1990s and emit high levels of carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, and oxides of nitrogen – produce up to 5 % of air pollution in the country and much more in metropolitan areas.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has adopted emission standards to control exhaust and evaporative emissions from small spark-ignition engines. They state that off-road engines contribute significantly to air pollution. The emission standards relate to nitrogen oxides (NOx), hydrocarbons (HC), particulate matter (PM) and carbon monoxide (CO). These emissions contribute to the formation of smog and contain toxic compounds such as benzene, so reducing them will benefit our health and our environment. In the Clean Air Act, Congress called on the EPA to establish emissions standards that solve these problems.

The EPA claims that a new gasoline-powered lawn mower produces as much air pollution in 1 hour of operation as 11 new cars each driven for 1 hour. Using a gasoline leaf blower for an hour will cause the same amount of pollution to emit in the air, just like a 2017 Toyota Camry driving from Los Angeles to Denver, which stretches approximately 1,100 miles. This is why lawmakers are working to reduce emissions from these tools.

“It’s amazing how people react when they learn how much this equipment pollutes and how many smog-forming and climate-changing emissions a small off-road engine equipment creates,” said MP Marc Berman. (D), the author of the legislation. , according to Los Angeles Times. “This is a fairly modest approach in trying to limit the massive amounts of pollution this equipment emits, not to mention the impact on the health of the workers who use it constantly.”

California Sets Emissions Standards For New Off-Road Engines, Helps Professional Landscapers With $$

California has adopted its own emission standards for certain types of new engines, vehicles, or off-road equipment. In these cases, manufacturers must certify their products with CARB; these products are also EPA certified although no additional requirements apply. There are more than 16.7 million small engines in California, which is roughly 3 million more than the number of passenger cars on the roads.

CARB began work on the regulation of landscaping equipment after Newsom issued an executive order in September 2020 requiring the state to “switch to 100% zero-emission all-terrain vehicles and equipment by now. 2035, to the extent possible ”.

The state has allocated $ 30 million to help landscapers and professional gardeners switch their equipment from zero-emission gas. Machines with so-called small off-road engines create as much smog-causing pollution in California as light passenger cars, and reducing those emissions is key to improving air quality and combating climate change, supporters of the law said.

Already, many homeowners have converted to fully electric landscaping equipment such as lawn mowers and hedge trimmers, as have many cities and universities. A 2019 CARB investigation found that more than half of household lawn and garden equipment in the state was already zero-emissions.

Legislation to ban small gasoline engines has met with opposition from Republican lawmakers, as well as some Democrats, who have expressed various concerns.

  • Residents of rural areas may be particularly affected by the requirement for zero-emission portable generators.
  • Battery equipment would have a limited charge during blackout periods.
  • The $ 30 million grant may not fully cover the roughly 50,000 California small businesses that will be affected by the law.
  • Zero emission commercial grade equipment tends to cost more than parallel gas powered equipment.
  • Battery equipment may not have the efficiency scales of gasoline lawn mowers, leaf blowers and other existing small machines.
  • Batteries are an uncertain expense, and a crew may have to carry multiple batteries to complete a day’s agenda. (Those naysayers need to check out the charge built into the new Ford F-150 Lightning.)

Berman said those concerns are being addressed and that the law specifically requires the California Air Resources Board to adjust restrictions on generators based on their “expected availability” of this equipment in the commercial and retail market.

Final thoughts on all-electric landscaping equipment

Matt Harrison, a longtime public works employee, told the Washington post his initial skepticism about using fully electric landscaping equipment was that the electric versions would either not be powerful enough or die too quickly. “It proved to me that I was wrong,” he admitted. Now Harrison uses fully electric mowers, blowers, weed whips and chainsaws. “You don’t have to wear hearing protection,” he explained. And “you don’t have to worry about coming home smelling the gas.”

Organizations like the American Green Zone Alliance (AGZA) are ready to help outdoors-oriented businesses and municipalities move away from small gasoline-powered equipment, including training on EPA and CARB compliant equipment, human-powered tools and battery electric options. “It’s just exploding,” said Daniel Mabe, founder of AGZA. “We are on the verge of a revolution.”

Of course, electrical equipment is only part of the equation for protecting the environment. A sustainable yard also requires new approaches to watering, fertilizer and pesticide use. We need to rethink the cultural norms that a successful middle class life equates to a sprawling green lawn. We need to grow more drought tolerant plants, eliminate invasive plants, import plants that attract pollinators, and support biodiversity where possible.

And we should reconsider the energy we use to light our outdoor landscaped spaces. For example, a small but growing number of golf courses are now turning to solar power systems to directly power their operations or feed electricity into the local utility grid in exchange for offsets on their electric bills.

Until these landscaping methods replace the All American front lawn and our favorite outdoor gathering spaces, mowing, blowing and pruning will be weekly chores. Electrifying everything is a great start.

Photo by Carolyn Fortuna, CleanTechnica

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Terri S. Tomasini