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A Greener Way to Cut the Grass Runs Afoul

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  • A Greener Way to Cut the Grass Runs Afoul

    NYT - A Greener Way to Cut the Grass Runs Afoul of a Powerful Lobby

    What's your view on this?

    Gallon for gallon or, given the size of lawnmower tanks, quart for quart the 2006 lawn mower engines contribute 93 times more smog-forming emissions than 2006 cars, according to the California Air Resources Board. In California, lawn mowers provided more than 2 percent of the smog-forming pollution from all engines.

    But as soon as air pollution regulators suggested adding a golf-ball-size catalytic converter to the lawn mower, they found themselves in one of their fiercest political battles of the past decade.

    On one side, the federal Environmental Protection Agency and state regulators in California. On the other, the largest lawn and garden equipment maker in the country and a powerful Republican senator. And in the middle, the six million or so lawn mowers shipped to retailers every year.

    For older regulators, it is a replay of Detroit's initial resistance to those who wanted clean up car exhaust by installing catalytic converters, which pull smog-forming chemicals and carbon monoxide out of the exhaust.

    "I think it's very analogous to what happened in the 70's," said Robert Cross, chief of the California air agency's Mobile Source Control Division. "The arguments are all the same."

    A pending regulation in California that is scheduled to take effect next year, if the E.P.A. approves, would tighten emission requirements for small engines, cutting 22 tons of smog-forming chemicals from the California air daily, or the equivalent of more than 800,000 cars a day. It would almost certainly require the use of a catalytic converter a requirement that Briggs & Stratton, the dominant engine maker in the struggling lawn care equipment field, vigorously opposes.

    Briggs and some other American equipment makers argue that the converters could add a dangerous amount of heat to already hot engines, creating a fire hazard. They point out that these machines are used or left standing amid dry brush or newspaper and other flammable garage debris. It is an argument similar to one automakers made before the government required the devices three decades ago. But four small-engine makers say that their engineers have figured out how to meet the pollution standards safely, with or without the devices.

    Like the Michigan Congressional delegation that argued on behalf of automakers decades ago, Senator Christopher S. Bond, Republican of Missouri, has repeatedly put hurdles in front of regulators. Mr. Bond operates from a position of strength in these matters. He is chairman of the appropriations subcommittee that controls the budgets of agencies like the E.P.A. and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

    While Briggs & Stratton is based in Wisconsin, it has two factories in Missouri. The possibility that increased costs will squeeze tight profit margins has led Mr. Bond to argue that tightening small-engine standards nationally would take 1,750 jobs from his constituents and send them to China.

    Senator Bond's main adversaries are regulators in California, who have largely independent authority to set air emission standards independent of the Environmental Protection Agency. In the 1990's the California Air Resources Board first put controls on emissions from these engines and subsequently tightened them. The new, tougher standards they drafted in 2003 would be the first that are likely to require the addition of a catalytic converter.

    To meet the new standards, she said, would require a minimum 30 percent price increase "across our product line."

    Ms. Hanz did not explain the components of this projected price increase. The E.P.A. estimates that a catalytic converter and new hoses would cost a company about $20 to $25 per machine, on average. California regulators estimate the price increase at 18 percent for the smallest machines, those costing about $150 to $200.
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  • #2
    I am all for regulating the air emissions. And California has some of the toughest air regulations in the country, possibly in the world right behind the U.K.

    The biggest thing that these manufacturors are going to face is the cost to get these mowes up to date with the emission regulations. But I personally don't see a problem with it


    • #3
      It seems like we went through this in the past when they put more stringent standards on auto emissions as well.
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