Gas leaf blowers are a convenient and quick way to get rid of debris. However, they can cause environmental damage and climate change by being noisy and dirty.
The Seattle City Council is right to get rid of them — the sooner the better for any city department — but the phased ban must include a financial incentive to help small businesses make the transition.
Last month, the council’s sustainability committee voted to Promote a resolutionCouncilmember Alex Pedersen suggested that gas-powered blowers should be phased out by 2025 for city departments, contractors, and businesses, and 2027 for businesses.
According to the EPA a one-hour run with a gas leaf blower can cause as much smog-forming pollution as driving a passenger car for 1,100 miles. That’s roughly the distance between Los Angeles and Seattle. California Air Resources Board. As Pedersen’s resolution points out, the blowers have two-stroke engines that “incompletely combust their fuel, resulting in the emission of toxic and carcinogenic substances.”
These machines should not be difficult to remove from a city that is concerned about climate change. Seattle has increased its use fossil-fuel burners.
As reported by The Seattle Times’ Daniel Beekman, in 2014 the council asked the city’s construction and inspections department to develop recommendations that would reduce noise and emissions from gas-powered leaf blowers. Since then, the number of gas blowers owned by city departments has only increased, even as the electric models have improved to be almost on par for power output — although they’re not quite there when it comes to wet leaves.
The resolution directs the city department to conduct an analysis of the changes in racial equality and consult those most economically affected. A reportPedersen requested Pedersen’s assistance to find out that nearly half the workers who rely upon gas-powered leafblowers identify themselves as Hispanic. Larger businesses might be able absorb the cost of a switch-over, while smaller landscapers would feel an disproportionate impact.
Financial incentives are needed to reduce this harm. The council should help, but it should also consider state support. Last session Proposed billReuven Clyle (D.Seattle), proposed to offer discounts up $200 for the purchase of electric lawn-care gear. Although the bill was not approved by committee, it is worth considering again next year.
Electric equipment is often a benefit to those who use it. This can help with climate change, but it can also worsen or even cause respiratory illness and hearing loss.
Although convenience is important, gas-powered blowers can be expensive. It’s time to put them away for good.