The D.C. Leafblower Saga, as Recounted in 'The Atlantic'

From “ Get Off My Lawn ,” in the April, 2019 issue of  The Atlantic .

From “Get Off My Lawn,” in the April, 2019 issue of The Atlantic.

In the April, 2019 issue of The Atlantic, James Fallows of the magazine, and of QCDC, has an article on how the Washington D.C. City Council decided to approve a bill to phase out gas-powered leafblower use within the District, by January 1, 2022.

You can read the article, “Get Off My Lawn,” here. A sample:

When people encounter engines these days, they’re generally seeing the outcome of decades of intense work toward higher efficiency. The latest models of jet-turbine engines are up to 80 percent more fuel-efficient than their 1950s counterparts….

The great outlier here is a piece of obsolete machinery Americans encounter mainly in lawn-care equipment: the humble “two-stroke engine.”… If you’ve seen a tuk‑tuk, one of the noisy tricycle-style taxis in places such as Bangkok and Jakarta, with purple smoke wafting out of its tailpipe, you’ve seen a two-stroke engine in action.

But you won’t see as many of them in those cities anymore, because governments in Asia and elsewhere have been banning and phasing out two-stroke engines on antipollution grounds.… Two-stroke engines have largely disappeared from the scooter, moped, and trail-bike markets in America. Regulators around the world are pushing older two-stroke engines toward extinction.

Yet they remain the propulsive force behind the 200-mph winds coming out of many backpack leaf blowers. As a product category, this is a narrow one. But the impact of these little machines is significant. In 2017, the California Air Resources Board issued a warning that may seem incredible but has not been seriously challenged: By 2020, gas-powered leaf blowers, lawn mowers, and similar equipment in the state could produce more ozone pollution than all the millions of cars in California combined. Two-stroke engines are that dirty. Cars have become that clean.

As recounted on this site over the past three years, D.C. Council Member Mary Cheh took the lead in supporting this bill, and last fall it passed the D.C. Council unanimously. Supporters in D.C. hope this will be a catalyst for further action across the country.