California has enacted a law may ban the sale of all off-road, gas-powered engines, including generators, lawn equipment, pressure washers, chainsaws, weed trimmers, and other small internal combustion (IC) devices.
The law charges the California Air Resources Board to adopt technologically feasible regulations to prohibit engine exhaust and evaporative emissions from new small off-road engines, as defined by the state board, by July 1, 2022, to take affect by 2024.
The law later singles out lawn and garden equipment, small power tools and generators for attention. There being no alternatives for large diesel powered generators for emergency services, such as hospitals, fire, and police departments, such generators are seemingly exempted from the law.
In comments to the press, the bill’s author, California state Assemblyman Marc Berman (D-Menlo Park) claimed the law would prevent wide-ranging negative health and environmental consequences of the use of IC engines.
It is estimated as many as 50,000 lawn care and landscaping microbusinesses will be impacted by the law, in addition to the millions of individual businesses and homeowners who use such equipment.
High Cost of Electric Equipment
Battery-powered yard care tools typically costs $100 to $250 more costly than comparable gasoline and diesel fueled equipment.
Proponents of the law users of electric power equipment will save money over time because the amount of electricity used to charge the batteries or power the equipment is cheaper than the cost of fossil fuels for comparable usages.
However, most electric lawn equipment lacks sufficient power reserves even in the highest capacity batteries to cover more than an average-sized yard. For lawn care professionals, who generally have no means of recharging batteries in the field, meaning they will have to purchase, maintaining, and carrying numerous extra batteries to complete a day’s set of jobs. Keeping dozens of charged spare batteries on hand at a cost of around $75 per battery, adds thousands of dollars to of equipment costs. Smaller lawn care businesses may be unable to bear the added costs.
‘Another Anti-Growth Policy’
This law has few benefits for average people, and carries high costs, says Wayne Winegarden, Ph.D., Sr. Fellow in Business & Economics for the Pacific Research Institute.
“This is another anti-growth policy from Sacramento whose impacts will be felt by small businesses the most, particularly minority businesses,” said Winegarden. “Since it is being slowly phased in, these impacts will take a while to manifest themselves, but even if the ban achieved its intended goals, which it will not, the impact on global greenhouse gas emissions would be infinitesimally small.”
Impact to Emergency Preparedness
In addition to the impact on lawn care equipment, the law also affects internal combustion generators.
In a state where earthquakes, wildfires and other natural disasters are not uncommon and where, in recent years, the power grid has not always been reliable, the IC ban may negatively impact emergency preparedness.
While fuel for internal combustion generators is easily stored for long periods of time, especially if fuel stabilizers are added, batteries can be somewhat less reliable. Sufficiently large battery arrays to provide power for extended outages are prohibitively expensive for most households. Lower capacity batteries are not only unlikely to provide sufficient power for extended outages in most homes, but batteries tend to degrade over time, particularly if the charge is not regularly cycled. This means little or no power may be available to the households or businesses in emergency situations.
Creates More Electricity Demand
The new law will place additional demands on California’s already heavily burdened power grid, which over the past decade has experienced periodic rolling blackout and brownouts each summer.
A fact sheet produced by Kern Economic Development Corporation, reports California currently relies on petroleum products for fully 73 percent of its energy needs, indicating California’s current power grid is incapable of replacing even a small fraction of that consumption.
Adding ever more demand to California’s power system is unsustainable, says Winegarden.
“The impact on the electrical infrastructure is one of the very troubling aspects of these policies,” said Winegarden. California continues to force all energy supplies, cars, household appliances, and now landscaping equipment, onto an electric grid that is already unstable and costly.
“The consequences will be additional stresses on the grid worsening reliability and increasing unaffordability,” Winegarden said.
Kevin Stone (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes from Arlington, Texas