Bond called "troglodytic"
April 25, 2006
Greening the American Lawn
The sound of a green-grass Saturday across most of this country is the sound of the lawnmower. And like virtually everything in modern life that's even remotely enjoyable, tending the lawn has become a guilty pleasure. Conventional lawns are water-hungry. The environmental costs of keeping them looking immaculate — with fertilizers and pesticides — can be very high. And then there's the mower itself, a potent spewer of smog-forming compounds that is vastly more toxic than a new car.
Cleaning up the lawnmowers could be fairly simple. The big obstacle isn't technical. It's political. It would be easy enough to add a small catalytic converter no bigger than a golf ball to each new lawnmower. That would substantially reduce lawnmower emissions.
But any move to do so has been blocked by Senator Christopher Bond, whose home state, Missouri, happens to have two plants that manufacture Briggs & Stratton engines, which are widely used in lawnmowers.
California is set to enact new standards next year that would require substantially lower small-engine emissions. But no other state can follow suit. In 2003, Mr. Bond reached a deal with Senator Dianne Feinstein that allows California to enact its own clean air laws but blocks any other state from following its lead. That makes the deal fine for California but not for the rest of the country — or for the Clean Air Act, which it clearly violates.
Senator Bond and Briggs & Stratton are making an enormous mistake. Their resistance to California's new standards — and to the adoption of catalytic converters — makes them look troglodytic. What's worse is that they're missing an enormous opportunity. Americans do love their lawns.
But at the moment, we're trapped in something of a paradox: to keep the grass trimmed we depend on heavily polluting engines. The manufacturer that offers an environmentally sound mower will almost certainly find a nation of willing buyers.