When I heard a few Minnesota legislators had introduced a bill to ban the sale of gas-powered lawn and garden equipment in the name of climate change, I was reminded of a scene in the movie “Vegas Vacation” where Clark Griswold tries to plug a leak in the Hoover Dam with some bubble gum only to have more leaks show up.
He tries to plug a few more holes before realizing a piece of bubble gum ain’t gonna do the trick.
The problem is much, much bigger.
My point is that while the internet tells me that cutting the grass does leave a semi-significant carbon footprint—according to one study I read, an hour on the John Deere pumps out the same number of pollutants as a 100-mile ride in an automobile—banning riding lawn mowers and chainsaws seems like a pretty weak attempt at making a difference.
The idea feels more like a waste of time and energy and another pandering, pathetic attempt to give off the appearance of progress at the expense of you, me and all the rest of the working stiffs who have made the mistake of calling Minnesota home.
This session, Minneapolis Democratic Sen. Omar Fateh introduced a bill on his side of St. Paul (SF 1849) to go with a House bill (HF1715) authored by Democratic Rep. Jerry Newton of Coon Rapids and Rep. Heather Edelson of Edina that would, if passed, put a stop to any new sales of gas-powered lawn and garden equipment in Minnesota.
If the bills pass muster and end up on the governor’s desk you know they are getting a signature, which would make Minnesota only the second state in the country to ban gasoline powered lawn equipment.
California passed a similar bill last year which is set to take effect in 2024.
The House bill, which has been referred to the House Commerce Finance and Policy committee, reads, in part: “On and after January 1, 2025, new lawn and garden equipment sold, offered for sale, or distributed in or into Minnesota must be powered solely by electricity.”
That means equipment powered by a spark ignition engine rated at or below 19 kilowatts or 25 gross horsepower including lawnmowers, leaf blowers, hedge clippers, chainsaws, lawn edgers, string trimmers, and brushcutters.
Would any of it make a real-world difference? Or is this a bubble gum band-aid?
It’s tough to get a handle on it when the only information available is generated by a search with Google, the world’s biggest misinformation machine.
Here’s what I found.
According to a 2022 story in the South Portland Sentry, the Environmental Protection Agency says gasoline-powered equipment, such as lawn mowers and leaf blowers, emit approximately 242 million tons of pollutants annually.
It’s important to note that the EPA study the author is basing her story on is based on information from 2011, according to the EPA study.
These same numbers are used in countless stories that have been written on the subject over the past several years, so it would appear an updated study has not been completed.
Anyway, back to the subject: The 242 million tons of pollutants produced annually is from across the United States (not just Minnesota) and based on approximately 121 million pieces of GLGE (the code name the EPA uses for lawn and garden equipment) estimated to be in use at the time.
Seems like a big number until you take a look at the top seven polluters on the planet by industry and their GHG emissions per year according to a 2022 article in something called Environmental Protection on the Worldwide Webs.
Then we see that 242 million is just a drop in the bucket compared to energy (Electricity and Heating), 15.83 billion tons; transport, 8.43 billion tons; manufacturing and construction, 6.3 billion tons; agriculture, 5.79 billion tons; food retail, 3.1 billion tons; fashion: 2.1 billion tons, and technology, 1.02 billion tons.
Before you left-leaning letter writers jump up from your morning coffee and march over to your computers to fire off angry emails to me and my publisher, I realize that comparing the pollution created in the U.S. by lawn mowers versus world-wide data is a bit misleading.
But it does at least set the table for discussion and serve as a reminder that there are bigger fish to fry when it comes to fighting climate change and pollution.
It’s just that taking on those big boys and girls is a lot tougher.
Make no mistake, the biggest impact from this sort of law would be on the little folks on the ground. It would be felt in the pocketbooks of business owners who sell gas-powered lawn mowers and chainsaws and by Joe and Jane Homeowner, who are going to have a tough time shelling out nearly $5,000 for a battery powered riding lawn mower.
That’s about the going rate for the basic version.
Then there are all the loggers and lawn-care businesses and so on and so forth.
But hey, at least some big city legislators got their names attached to some progressive legislation. If it gets passed into law—better yet. It would be a huge win for Fateh, who, since being elected in 2020, hasn’t had one bill he authored make it into law. A few months into his second term in the Senate, the Minneapolis Democrat with a MPA from George Mason University has authored 115 bills, none of which have gone anywhere.
There’s still hope for a couple others he has introduced this year: SF2653, seeking a refundable and assignable credit permission for electric-assisted bicycle purchases, and SF1848 prohibiting the sale of ice resurfacing machines in Minnesota that are not powered solely by electricity.
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