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If you read comments to the recent news that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established new emission standards for small engines you will likely note a radical divergence of opinion.
In some cases you may read comments from those who use alternative fueling techniques who believe they are already reducing emissions substantially. In other comments you will likely find consumers who are less than enthusiastic about new rules that will ultimately cost them additional money in an already tight economy. These individuals see nothing wrong with their current equipment.
Environmentalists will cite California’s push to establish these regulations back in 2003 only to be hampered by Missouri Senator Kit Bond who sided with small engine manufacturers and often referred to the consumer costs associated with the proposed changes.
In the late summer of 2008 the EPA finally passed the long fought regulations designed to reduce lawn mower (and all other small engine lawn equipment) emissions by 35%. The EPA will also insist that new marine motors will demonstrate a reduction in emissions by 70% by 2010.
Most consumers don’t need a degree in economics to figure out that making these changes will cost money ($235 million a year by most estimates). They are also savvy enough to understand that these companies will have to pass on those costs to consumers if they are to remain in business.
Briggs and Stratton along with other small engine manufacturers have publicly stated they will be working with the EPA to reach the emission standards by the target dates.
One of the stories that may not get much coverage in all of this is the anticipated stockpiling of machines made prior to the EPA deadline. These machines can be sold at a lesser price because they will not be subjected to the EPA regulations. Consumers might also find a cost effective solution by repowering their existing mower. Both options may provide a cost effective way to deal with the forthcoming changes.
Repowering has always been a less expensive and environmentally friendly way to manage the longevity of existing machinery and can successfully reduce landfill waste. Repowering will continue to be an alternative long after lawn mower emission standards are firmly in place. This long-term solution will continue to be an attractive answer for a new generation of lawn mower owners.
Until alternative fuel sources become mainstream Americans continue to rely on fossil fuel, particularly unleaded gasoline. Since this is the current standard it is also the arena the EPA remains most concerned about.
The prevailing belief is that these regulations will eliminate up to 1/5th of the total emissions produced by all combustible engines. Many understand this to be a significant positive in a world where news coverage often centers on the dangers of high carbon emission output. It is also significant in light of air quality warnings most prevalent in urban areas. These air quality issues are often viewed as causal agents for lung ailments such as asthma.
While there may be many issues to consider there are those who perceive negatives where others only have eyes for the positives. For recreationalists as well as those who derive an income from the use of small engine equipment the news comes on the heels of substantial price increases for gas and oil. This is compounded by the fact that the lawn care machinery must be transported in most cases and customers aren’t enthusiastic about a price increase for service. In many cases a lost job for lawn service may be passed on to a neighborhood youth.
Some companies are exploring the possibility of electricity as a power supply for mowers, but others bemoan either the need for a power cord in some instances or a battery operated unit that is perceived to be underpowered.
Many Americans may believe the environmental problem is relatively small, but some estimates indicate that we spend 3 billion hours (or 125 million days) managing the care and maintenance of our lawns each year. It is believed that lawn mower emissions collectively account for a significant source of carbon discharge in the United States. It is further estimated that one and a half millions tons of carbon monoxide will be eliminated once the new regulations are enacted.
Environmentalist admit this is only one in a series of steps needed to move from dependence on fossil fuels to something they believe will be less harmful to the world’s ecosystem. This will likely alter the shape and power source for automotive transportation as new (and often renewable) energy sources are tapped for long-term use.
As with any sweeping change there will be resistance, but in most cases there will be little to remind us of what ‘used to be’ five years down the road.
~Ben Anton, 2008