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Monday, May 14, 2007

Ban Leaf Blowers

It's not just the noise - although I had two right outside my open window this morning at 6:50 AM (the clip above was taken a little after 9:00 AM, since I stubbornly dozed through the noise anyway.) No, it's not just the noise, but that's a huge part of it, and certainly the part that has the most traction in the "Ban Leaf Blowers" movement. Since the leaf blowers themselves throatily declaim on this quite convincingly themselves, I can turn to other points.

Air pollution. These things are nasty. About 15 minutes after the duet-of-the-blowers departed from outside my apartment, the intoxicating odor of internal combustion engines at work filled the room. Go electric, you say? That solves noise and pollution, right? I'll give you noise, but pollution? Not so much. One of the things that cracks me up about electric engines is that people assume that there are no consequences for generating electricity. Where do you think it comes from? Let's look at what the Energy Information Administration has to say (report released last week, data as of February 2007):

  • Coal: 50.2%

  • Nuclear: 20.6%

  • Natural gas: 17.4%

  • Hydropower: 6.7%

  • Other (Geothermal, Wind, Solar, Fuel Cells, but mostly Biomass): 3%

  • Oil: 2.2%

  • As you can see, the classically toxin-free options (hydropower and the "Others") only account for less than 10% of electricity generation in the US. Even if you count nuclear as one of the clean sources (and I don't - I consider the toxic waste a serious environmental threat which will only increase if/when we adopt more nuclear energy), fossil fuels still account for a whopping 70% of power generation. And since it takes power to transmit electricity to the consumer's destination, you just might, ironically, be producing less pollution by burning the gasoline on the spot.

    A word on the so-called "clean" energy sources. First of all, I don't consider biomass clean - it is still a carbon-based fuel. And its renewability is limited to the amount of energy the sun deigns to provide, and how much of that energy we wish to divert from normal ecological input, such as food production and normal weather patterns. How much impact would we have if we diverted enough solar, hydro, and geothermal energy to provide us with 100% of our current levels of usage? Remember, that energy is going somewhere now.

    Dust pollution. I live in Phoenix, and we have a dust problem, to put it mildly. We're just coming off of spring, and I am putting off cranking on the air conditioning for as long as possible. That means fans and open windows. I can personally attest to the amount of dust which is already in the air. Phoenix is less breezy than most other cities, which helps keep the dust down but, in turn, ever ready to be stirred. Enter leaf blower. On the way to herding stray leaves into a pile, much dust mayhem ensues.

    Labor multiplier. Many people would put this as a positive, but I'm not going to. If businesses and homeowners associations want to look all shiny and leaf-free, let them pay for the man-hours to properly rake them up. Subjecting one poor schmuck to the noise, dust and stink of the infernal machine is just a way to cut labor costs. I don't know how many more landscaping laborers would have employment if the machine was gone, nor how many places would elect to tolerate some stray leaves on their property rather than pay the price, and I'm not going to venture to do those calculations, but I don't think the Earth would stop turning on its axis.

    There are plenty of sites discussing banning leaf blowers (though mostly for noise reasons only.) Google™ around to see if anything's up in your community.

    At 6:50 this morning some dust was kicked up, and my dander as well.


    1. Did you know leaf blowers can be used as a terrorist weapon to power large rc model planes full of explosives? They should ban them altogether. Whats more sad is all the conversion parts are sold by hobbyist. Thats right americans supply terrorists with all thats needed. When will it ever end.


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