Weaning Californians off gasoline lawn equipment isn’t a wake-up call, it’s about air quality


No, this is not a wacky California.

But that’s how more than a few who’ve never entered the San Joaquin Valley before are crafting signed legislation on Saturday that they say makes Gavin Newsom the most awake governor of them all.

The target of their scorn – among other new Golden State laws – is to ban the sale of new gasoline-powered equipment used primarily around homes and gardens such as leaf blowers, lawn mowers. , weed killers, high pressure cleaners, small chainsaws, hedges, generators and high pressure cleaners among others.

They ridicule Newsom for drinking the Climate Change Kool-Aid. Some go so far as to present it as a Democratic versus Republican or a Liberal versus Conservative issue.

Here’s some bad news for fanatics on both sides of the political spectrum, whether they’re revelers or someone disgusted that their chosen nirvana purveyors don’t go far enough in pursuing the scorched earth tactic to defeat those. whose values ​​are not at 100%. correspond with theirs.

What is behind the new law is air quality, not climate change.

Banning these small gasoline engines is the natural and logical progression of a process that began in 1967 under the administration of Governor Ronald Reagan. It was years before Greta Thunberg’s parents probably met. And it took decades for climate change to enter political parlance.

This was due to the poor air quality. Something people of all political stripes had to breathe in and watch.

The worst airsheds in the United States have always been the Los Angeles Basin and the San Joaquin Valley.

The reasons are simple. The mountains forming a basin, the prevailing winds and the nuances of civilization provide the ideal conditions for the development of poor air quality.

Adding to the dilemma of the San Joaquin Valley are the atmospheric conditions created by being in a bowl whose eastern ridge rises over 14,000 feet, as well as sea layers colliding with the edge of the mainland. . It is exacerbated by the fertile soil of the valley which is a combination of marine sediments from its days as a massive inland sea and the ever fine crushing of the Sierra by four “small” Ice Ages.

This is what gives the Tule Valley a fog that is not created by the ocean or bodies of water but emits from the ground. This cools the air close to the ground in winter to the point that above about 1,000 feet it is often about 10 degrees cooler. This is why Turlock can be moody and 45 degrees in mid-January while Sonora grows 60 degrees and sunny.

If you go back 30 to 40 years ago, the geology, local climatic nuances, and development – whether it was homes, farms, factories, highways, or railroads laden with vehicles – were got to the point where Mount Diablo and Coast Ranges were not visible on most days.

And even if it wasn’t for the soot or the smell of smoke that the forest fires brought us, the visual effects were the same and the health impacts were more damaging, especially since you Go further south towards Bakersfield in the bowl that is the San Joaquin Valley.

The federal government in the 1970s allowed California to go its own way on air quality issues – not because of politics, but because the realities are different here.

The state is not basically flat where a strong wind cleans the air every day or so. It is also not sparsely populated. And the justifications for that exclusion were a direct result of bipartisan political work that has an equal share of detractors self-identified as Democrats and Republicans.

It might interest political hackers to know that the California Air Resources Board was formed in 1967 when Reagan was governor and with his full blessing. It was also a measure with strong bipartisan support in the California legislature. At the time, there were 21 Democrats and 19 Republicans in the state Senate and 42 Democrats and 38 Republicans in the Assembly. And those in the opposition, believe it or not, were an equal number of Democrats and Republicans.

Building on this unified statewide approach to air quality, the federal government’s subsequent decision to allow California to address its air quality issue that worsens, has led to things like catalytic converters on cars being the norm first in California with the rest of the country following suit.

It also gave us more expensive fuel in the form of reformulated gasoline to further reduce emissions. No refinery outside of California produces the blend that burns cleaner gas during the summer months, as the retrofit to refine it is expensive. And building new refineries up to standards that meet California’s requirements for reducing emissions is even more expensive.

So what did we get for the high price we paid?

Since the mid-1990s, air quality based on various emissions has been reduced by about half in the San Joaquin Valley, while the population has increased by over 45%.

While many may have short memories, didn’t live in the San Joaquin Valley or its cousin kissing the Sacramento Valley in the hazy summer days, or weren’t even born yet, what we bought is a healthier air to breathe despite the increase in population.

Advances against automotive emissions were so effective after the California Air Resources Board was operational after 20 years in the 1990s, that the Diamond Bar Air Pollution Control District identified two-stroke engines such as lawn mowers as being a more significant source of annual air pollutants in several categories than the combined annual take-offs and landings of all jet traffic at Los Angeles, Ontario and John Wayne international airports.

Two-stroke engines have been known to be horribly inefficient gas burners for decades.

And because they are inefficient, they pollute a lot more.

A 2006 study noted that fine particles and carbon monoxide were the worst in lawn and garden equipment. A person using such equipment for one hour under most conditions is exposed to pollution well above national standards for 24 hours of exposure.

In 1990, the state was the first government in the world to impose stricter manufacturing standards for small engines. But in subsequent follow-up testing in 2003, CARB found that more than 55% of all equipment sold by manufacturers in California did not comply.

More recent tests show that operating a gasoline leaf blower for 60 minutes emits the same amount of harmful pollutants as driving from Los Angeles to Denver – a distance of 1,100 miles – in a Toyota. Camry 2017.

Lithium battery technology has evolved to the point that it now makes sense from users’ perspective to force change.

And, just to be clear, the law requires that the phase-out not be tied to an arbitrary deadline but to January 1, 2024 or as soon as possible, whichever comes first.

Californians operate nearly 35 million cars, trucks, and semi-trailers, as well as 16.7 million lawn equipment and gasoline generators. That’s a lot of sources of pollution.

Newsom is not awake.

He embraces the reality of a proven way that has improved air quality in California.

And unless you live in an alternate universe, what Newsom signed into law isn’t even close to falling into the category of questionable stocks based on diminishing returns.

The new law will make a difference based on what California has accomplished in reducing air pollution from cars.

It just builds on what Ronald Reagan and others started in 1967.

About Charles Holmes

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