California’s green mafia has done it again. Rather than letting people choose what kind of landscaping tools they want to use—including lawn mowers and leaf blowers—California is imposing a ban on the sale of new gas-powered small off-road engines (SORE) in the name of reducing engine exhaust and evaporative emissions. The bill, signed by Gov. Gavin Newson last week, empowers the California Air Resource Board (CARB) to reduce emission requirements for SOREs all the way to zero, eventually banning the sale of SORE equipment in the state.
This incessant bureaucratic micromanaging does not bode well for the people whose businesses and livelihoods will be seriously impacted. Miguel Rojas, a Latino owner of a landscaping company is worried that “this is just going to hurt us” and that “it should really come down to preference.” California’s tone-deaf “Green Jim Crow” energy policies already have a sour track record of discrimination against the state’s own Latino community, and this new bill is simply the latest example. Robert Apodaca, the executive director of United Latinos Vote has admitted that California’s environmental regulations come “at the expense of poor people” and that they “disproportionately burden those who [they] claim to support the most.”
A quick look at Home Depot reveals a lot about the finances of the small-scale landscaping industry. A gas-powered lawn mower with a 21-inch deck costs $170. A battery-powered lawn mower with the same dimensions is $300. Where a 110-ounce can of fuel costs $20, a new battery is around $160, and the accompanying battery charger is $90. In addition to those price tags, the cost of electricity to charge these batteries, the frequency with which they need to be charged, and the amount of time it takes them to charge all serve as extra barriers to entry.
With the stroke of Newsom’s pen, the cost of materials necessary to run an all-electric landscaping business will nearly triple by 2024. A small business owner like Rojas will need to account for the higher costs embedded in the unintended consequences of the green new order. The result is that a company will either not be able to employ as many workers or the cost of services will increase—or both. These costs will put lawn care just out of reach for hard-working families who rely on this service—a feature, not a bug, of the progressive agenda—until only elites can afford it.
Regarding pollution, this law will do little to improve the environment. California’s air quality fails to meet national standards because of natural and imported pollution, wafting over the ocean primarily from Asia—a trend worsened by government mandates killing American jobs and exporting manufacturing processes to China. Any reduced emissions resulting this ban will likely be negligible. As emissions have declined from vehicles, the air quality levels have stagnated. California’s ozone levels have declined but plateaued because their policies are reaching diminishing returns and there is little evidence to demonstrate that SORE emissions will eclipse that of vehicles.
California lawmakers repeatedly turn a blind eye to the fact that when faced with prioritizing either highfalutin environmental initiatives or a job, the average resident prefers the latter. The real answer to promoting eco-friendly lawn care comes down to the private sector. When quieter and cleaner electric-powered tools approach the price and convenience of gas-powered tools, people will make that cost-benefit decision themselves. Luckily for Texas, residents still have the freedom to choose between electric or gas mowers, solar panels or shingles, Tesla or Ford, etc.
Anyway, I hate to imagine what California’s middle-class front yards could look like in a few years.
This commentary originally appeared in The Cannon Online on October 21, 2021.