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Leaf blower for 30 minutes pollutes more than a 3,900-mile road trip
dennis wyatt
Dennis Wyatt

If the State of California is hell-bent on improving air quality and reducing the wanton use of fossil fuels, they might want to consider banning leaf blowers with two-stroke engines.

Using your garden variety gas powered leaf blower with a two-stroke engine for 30 minutes emits the same amount of hydro carbons as a 2011 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor pickup truck does on a 3,900 mile drive from Texas to Alaska.

Sacramento is obsessed with pounding pickups like the Ford F-150 SVT Raptor into oblivion yet there is nary a peep about the ear-splitting leaf blowers that have dubious value given how they are used.

There are other tests such as the leaf blower vs mega-powered production pickup one conducted by Edmunds’ that put two-stroke lawn and garden apparatus in equally bad light.

Research around the world points to two-stroke gas powered engines as being a significant source of hydrocarbons. At one point they were deemed to produce tons of more air quality issues within the Los Angeles Basin than jets taking off and landing at LA International, John Wayne, and Ontario airports.

Yet two-stroke engines are getting a pass as Sacramento marches blindly forward with mandates banning electricity generated with fossil fuels as well as pouring billions into high speed rail all in the name of improved air quality and combating climate change.

Two-stroke engines do not have independent lubricant systems meaning oil needs to mix with gasoline. They lack emission controls. As a result of those two factors roughly 30 percent of the gas two-stroke engines in yard and lawn equipment use do not completely burn. This leads to significantly more carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, and nitrous oxides being emitted from 10 minutes of using a leaf blower than a typical car driven by a family over the course of weeks.

Then there is the question of how leaf blowers are used.

Look at virtually every commercial yard service plying their trade in Ceres and area. Leaf blowers are not used primarily to blow leaves. They are used to blow grass clippings, dirt and small debris from sidewalks, driveways, gutters, and the portion of the street in front of a client’s house. And where do they blow all of this stuff? It isn’t blown into a pile to pick up. Instead it is blown into the street and ultimately makes it into neighbors’ yard, the storm drain system, or back into the yard of their client — and for what purpose? So concrete looks tidy for perhaps a half a day after the lawn is cut?

You can argue that the use of leaf blowers — even without taking their hideously inefficient burning of gasoline into consideration — are gross polluters. The use of lawn blowers whips up dust, dirt, and lovely little nuisances such as fecal matter and pesticides that have been deposited on lawns.

Then there is the issue of noise pollution. A typical leaf blower hits 110 decibels. This annoyance would be tolerable if leaf blowers were not constantly being used in a reckless, inconsiderate, and almost always useless manner.

It is useless because the use of leaf blowers in most cases isn’t to clear an area of debris and then clean it up. Instead debris is simply moved beyond property lines or scattered to the four winds.

It is inconsiderate because either the hired hands of a lawn care service or homeowners themselves are making all the noise simply to blow dirt, dust, and lawn clippings into the yard of neighbors.

It is reckless in that it sends dust and dirt airborne — not to mention disproportionally generates pollutants — to contribute to the swill that we all breathe.

If the end result was cleaning up debris et al and depositing it in either a green and brown cart for disposal, the two-stroke leaf blower may actually serve a practical purpose.

What leaf blowers do can be done with a push broom or — on those rare occasions during the year when leaves fall from trees — a rake.

It’s ironic in more ways than one that leaf blowers aren’t being dogged by Sacramento for the questionable devices they are given the end results are essentially more air quality issues and blowing lawn clippings and dirt into neighbors’ yards or city streets.

That’s because the same legislators that want tax dollars to underwrite mega-expensive high speed rail of questionable value for cleaner air while at the same time want  gas-powered vehicles to suffer the same fate as the dodo bird are hardcore nanny state advocates.

With each passing year the 120 merry men and women are getting closer each year to slapping a sin tax on anything that they perceive contributes to obesity in children and adults.

Why not do everyone a favor and ban gas powered two-stroke leaf blowers? At the same time they can indulge in their favorite pastime of redistributing income in a bid to influence behavior by offering $10 tax credits on rakes and push brooms. They can justify it just like they did the electric car credit that Tesla benefitted handsomely from by pointing out using a rake or push broom is reducing California’s carbon footprint. But since the broom and rake manufacturers are not part of the idolized disruptive economy that the California Legislature likes to fawn over, a tax credit likely won’t get any traction.

However seizing on the trendy concept du jour in Sacramento of social justice, buying two-stroke leave blowers back for $20 apiece with no questions asked once the sale of new ones are banned might appeal to the combined inner nanny and inner Santa of politicians.

And if yard services or unwilling to use rakes or brooms or if homeowners that cut their own yards decline to do so as well, maybe some enterprising 10-year-old schooled in code writing can create an app that neighbors can use to hire them to rake their yards and sweep their sidewalks for $5 a week.

Dang, I forgot. Starting Jan. 1 under the independent contractors’ law there may be an issue with hiring someone to do piecemeal work raking leaves because benefits aren’t being offered. Then there is the issue of child labor laws.

Maybe it is best Sacramento doesn’t mess with the status quo. After all, one wouldn’t want to distract from the anointed bogeymen of climate change nor upset the nanny state train and derail efforts to tax our way to collective health as society. If you ban two-stroke gas-powered leaf blowers you might actually make a sizable dent in air pollution as well as encourage people to pick up brooms and rakes that could lead them to exercising their bodies.

We would not want that as it could make cherished goals such as a sin tax on soda and spending $100 billion on a high speed rail system through the Valley of the Methane Gas Spewing Cows a big waste of government overreach and a big waste of tax dollars.

This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Ceres Courier or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.