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Blowback – Are We Witnessing The End Of Gas-Powered “Gardening” Gear In California?

Satan's Engine speaks!
Photo: File

You may have heard that California is poised to become the first state in the nation to phase out the use of gas-powered lawn equipment, aka blowers, mowers, and trimmers.

Depending on your preferences and threshold for pain, you’re either leaping for joy right now or speed dialing your lawyer to file a blocking lawsuit in support of your neighborhood mow-and-blow person.

But the fact remains that Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed a bill Saturday requiring new small off-road engines (SOREs) – which found a niche use primarily with landscaping companies – to be zero-emission by 2024. Newsom’s legislation comes with $30 million in funding to help ease the pain of transition to quieter, cleaner gear.

So far, the governor’s move has been hailed by interested members of the public and agencies charged with keeping California’s worsening air scrubbed clean. Protests have also surfaced, largely from landscaper’s organizations. Battle lines, or lawns, are being drawn.

“Small gas engines are not only bad for our environment and contributing to our climate crisis, they can cause asthma and other health issues for workers who use them,” said California Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D), an author of the bill, in a statement. “It’s time we phased out these super polluters.”

On the other side of the suburban fence is Andrew Bray, vice president of government relations for the National Association of Landscape Professionals, who told the Washington Post: “We are not trying to say we want gas powered equipment forever. We get it, [electric is] coming. All we’re asking for is a little more time.”

Some say we’ve waited long enough, air pollution has gotten bad enough, and the trend to electric is here and finally gaining majority acceptance.

Officials at the California Air Resources Board (CARB) say operating a gas leaf blower for an hour can create as much pollution as driving a Toyota Camry for 1,100 miles. CARB officials also estimate that there are currently some 14.4 million SOREs pumping away in the residential and commercial lawn equipment sector.

Others claim California is merely riding a trend many say is already underway, with manufacturers shipping more electric-powered units and some saying they’ll stop making gas-powered machines by March 2022.

Many feel Newsom’s legislation and the trend toward electrification will adversely – and unfairly – impact small landscaping companies who say they depend on the more powerful gas-powered equipment to cover more ground more quickly so they can tend to more customers and thus make more money.

The cost of an electric mower is double that of a gas model, is less powerful and can only be used for short periods of time, their users say. The equipment’s failings may also lead to higher prices being passed on to customers used to low rates.

We think it’s understood that things don’t move swiftly in the 24/680 or California when it comes to gas-powered gear. Other delays and challenges could probably best be described as inevitable.

But as the bow of the ship begins to turn and small towns and even some states enact their own brand of leaf blower restrictions, more officials turn to California for an indication of public sentiment and how things could be expected to go if they move to enforce adoption of quieter, lower emissions equipment.


  1. Hurray, hallelujah, and at last! Gas-powered leaf blowers are obscene and I wish that homeowners who use or hire them will live long enough to explain to their grandchildren that they contributed to climate change and air pollution so they didn’t have to use a — god forbid — broom.

    • You people (Lindsay crane)will whine about everything! Since so many folks that do yard care depend on getting it done quickly and moving to the next job, are you, May God forbid, being a “racist”, something to ponder?
      I do hate noise and use a broom but I do not try to control the world?!

      • No. NOT something to ponder – though we know you would like us to spend time doing so. Tell you what, you people go on calling it controlling the world and we’ll continue to call it what it is — trying to make it habitable and better.

      • Some people say: “you people”…and I just don’t know who that is. Do we have stickers or wrist bands? Also, when a woman posts a shrill, hostile message, it might be wise for her to not mention that she uses a broom. That’s also ambiguous.

  2. If they saw it coming why didn’t they prepare themselves for it. All the crews in my neighborhood use gas. And it lasts for hours on some days.

  3. For selfish reasons, I’m delighted that the loudest, most cloying leaf blowers won’t sully the tranquility of our hilltop paradise. Mowers and weed whackers aren’t much better.

    The noise pollution alone is indubitably a wretched nuisance and justifies express proscription.

    The stated basis for the legislation, however, is utterly disingenuous. The notion that electrical motors is a misleading legal fiction.

    Indeed, up to 10% of California’s electricity is generated at coal- or oil-fired power plants, which emit significant carbon and (far worse) surface level pollutants including sulfur dioxide, ozone and particulate matter. A significant number of scientists question whether there’s a causal nexus between carbon emissions and global warming. (Vocalizing skepticism has become politically verboten in academia and public employment, so many skeptics do not speak out publicly anymore.)

    There is no question, however, that sulfur dioxide, ozone and particulate matter damage human health.

    A plurality (1/3+) of California’s electricity is generated with natural gas, a far cleaner fuel which emits only a tiny fraction of the surface-level pollution and less than half the carbon dioxide, but this is “zero emission” either.

    In both instances, increasing reliance on electrical motors by banning the use of portable motor fuels simply relocates emissions from the zip code where the energy is consumed to the zip code where the electricity is generated. Moreover, rational commercial landscaping firms will equip their truck fleets to with gasoline or diesel-powered generators to recharge portable equipment in the field.

    Still, I won’t miss the sound of leaf blowers.

  4. Hey J.D., All! Greetings from Western North Carolina – we moved here last winter, leaving Lamorinda and it’s damned leaf blowers behind. For years, my trusty Dewalt 24v leaf blower serviced our orinda property just fine. I had two batteries, and that was always more than enough to manage the leaves and such on our drought/benign neglect-tolerant hardscape and driveway. Now we have a lot more land to maintain; just the grassy part alone is over 1.5 acres, and the rest? Well, it’s lots of leaves and this time of year they’re all coming down. That same electric blower can still handle the burden, but I admit I did buy a third battery. I also just invested in a EGO-Power brand electric lawnmower, trimmer, and 18″ chainsaw. That mower can handle all the grass, plus the area along the road, and a good portion of the neighbor’s yard (my 9yo son mows the lawn, you see – and isn’t super efficient or mindful of property lines). We have yet to fully deplete the battery; it goes for at least 1hr 30min on a hilly landscape. My son even likes to run the headlight, because it’s cool that the mower has a headlight.

    My point? I don’t personally find the electric equipment to have a single downside for the homeowner with even a larger plot to keep up. The whole package only cost a few hundred dollars more than the Dino-powered equivalent, and are essentially zero-maintenance and make zero impact on the neighbors.

    For the sanity of the neighbors – go electric!

    • G-Dog – (We dunno, we know we never called you that, it just seemed appropriate here…)

      First, thanks for writing! Second, we miss you guys!

      … and then thirdly and fourthly, thanks for the consumer review; for proving that sons can still be convinced to do yard work; for using “Dino-Powered” and for teasing us with tales of a beautiful, leafy landscape kept in check and nurtured by its caring owners and their considerate approach to living on the land. Did we say we missed you guys? Dang, do we miss you guys!

    • Hey people, why not plant a California Native garden if you are sincere about your impact on the environment?

  5. Just for conversation sake…..most of the above posts sound like Lamorinda white privilege speaking.
    What about the poor Hispanic people who must use these tools for their livelihood?
    I guess this law could even be called racist, as it affects one people group greater than the other.
    ( Gee, I guess I’m seeing things thru the eyes of a progressive liberal today ) (see how it comes across?)

      • Give us a break. Only in times as confused as these could people equate a noise and pollution issue with the plight of an abused people. If you’re so concerned about your crew buy them rakes and brooms and pay them a decent wage.

  6. I love my electric leaf blower. However if noise and toxic emissions are the problem, the law should target noise and emissions. Requiring better mufflers and banning 2-stroke engines would be the place to start. Banning gasoline powered generators is insane.

    Laws are enforced selectively these days, not at all against favored groups. Such as motorcycle owners who have removed their mufflers and blast through residential areas making 100 times the noise of a large truck.

  7. Aside from some posted grievances about leaf blower noise, I think, I hope the landscaping industry wins this fight. Truth-be-told if CA allowed internal combustion engines to be upgraded with newer technology and after-market products fuel economy and emissions could be improved and that improvement would go a lot further than banning small engines as proposed.

    Another thought is this; our wilderness is already in dire need of cleaning up. An effective tool to perform this overlooked service is the chainsaw. Newsom and his ilk developing solar-powered chainsaws? The devastation and pollution (granted it is a different kind of pollution) caused by the wildfires again surpasses any gains eliminating tools of the trade and livelihoods this boon dongle bill will provide.

    Keep government out of our lives. Promote common sense. Take away the politico’s per diem and apply that money to the hundreds of displaced garden and landscape folks facing unemployment

    • Seems forest clean up was once handled pretty well by lumberjacks with saws. They didn’t leave any forests behind but they didn’t spew fossil fuels into the air either.

  8. I’ve seen video of a Tesla accelerating in “insane” mode. I wouldn’t bet against electric saws outperforming gas-powered saws down the road. Electric is much simpler and more reliable. Practicality in remote areas might be an issue in the short run, but I wouldn’t judge performance on what is available at box hardware stores today.

  9. Love how all the people who have put the screws to the landscapers to keep their bills down are now all concerned about their health and future of their businesses. You created the problem.

  10. No no no. If we’re talking forest manglement, we’re talking rakes. Finnish rakes are what you need. The gardener rakes up the debris, and he takes care of all that.

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