California air regulators want to cut down the use of gas-powered lawn tools, arguing they could be worse for the environment than automobiles.
Last summer’s effort by the SF Board of Supervisors to ban natural gas from city-owned buildings was hailed by the measure’s co-author, Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, as an example of how “San Francisco needs to lead the way” out of the ongoing climate crisis. But in reality, that measure had its roots in Berkeley, and several other climate measures are also inspired by ambitious/restrictive environmental laws in smaller municipalities. And so it goes with today’s report in the Chronicle about several local pushes to ban gas-powered lawn mowers and leaf blowers, a move regulators hope to spread statewide just like the California auto emission standards.
It won’t surprise you to hear that Berkeley already has a similar ban, though theirs only relates to leaf blowers. Same goes for Belvedere, Los Gatos, Mill Valley, and Sonoma (the city, not the county.) Various time and area-based bans on the gas devices are in effect in Palo Alto and Orinda, and Novato is considering an outright ban. The goal is to get landscapers to use electric devices instead; though many users don’t like those because they’re less powerful and often require an electrical cord.
But experts argue that gas mowers and blowers can produce as much, or more pollution than cars. “The reason that they’re such high polluters, there’s not anything fundamentally different about engines, they’re not fundamentally dirtier, but we haven’t put effort into cleaning them up like cars,” California Air Resources Board engineer Dorothy Fibiger told the Chronicle. She points out that items like catalytic converters are generally not seen on mowers and blowers, to keep them lightweight.
One advantage that can help the transition is that electric mowers are generally a little cheaper, and of course, do not have to be refilled with expensive gas. But the electric equivalents, even the cordless versions, can take longer to complete a task.
And when you use electrical energy, you are of course at the mercy of any PG&E blackouts the utility may decide to foist upon you. Maybe you’re lucky enough to be powered by solar rooftop panels, but that’s unlikely, given that the California solar mandate has been in effect for merely six days. And while California could ban gas mowers and blowers, either city by city or in a statewide fell swoop, you can expect to see a lawsuit trying to undo the move. Which is exactly what’s happening right now with the aforementioned Berkeley natural gas ban.
Image: Lars Plougmann via Flickr