A 50% voucher for a tool? Gardeners name California subsidies insufficient | Lost Shore Outpost

Jorge Mijango of Ken’s Rototilling and Landscaping uses a chainsaw to cut trees to fight fires on property along Via Floreado in Orinda on November 16, 2021. The landscaping company owns around 50 gas-powered tools that could be affected by a government ban on small gas engines. Aric crabs | Bay Area News Group

Although Governor Gavin Newsom has signed a law banning the sale of most new gas-powered tools until 2024, gardeners and landscapers say a $ 30 million state subsidy is nowhere near enough to help small operators switch to electrical appliances help.

The state authority responsible for administering the subsidy estimates that it is only enough to give every independent gardener a 50 percent voucher for a tool, a far cry from the truckload of leaf blowers, lawn mowers, small chainsaws, brushcutters and trimmers, that are dragged around the most.

In fact, local governments have learned that they have to offer more. In Southern California, a regional air quality district that has been running a similar incentive program since 2017 saw few buyers until discounts were increased to 75% per instrument. The district combined this with an outreach program and encouraged landscapers to test electrical equipment.

The California Air Resources Board is still in the process of figuring out who will qualify for the rebate, but Congregation member Marc Berman, one of the authors of the bill, said he was ready to add more funds if needed.

“Let’s not make the perfect the enemy of the good,” said the Democrat from Menlo Park.

A chainsaw and gas on the ground during firefighting work on property along Via Floreado in Orinda on November 16, 2021. Ken’s Rototilling and Landscaping Company owns around 50 gas-powered tools that could be affected by a government ban on new small gas engines. Aric Crabb / Bay Area News Group

Environmentalists hailed the nation’s first law to promote California’s clean energy goals, noting the state estimates that smog-causing pollution from small gas-powered engines will exceed emissions from passenger cars this year. But electrification of the landscaping industry is placing financial and physical strains on the estimated 60,000 one-person and often unlicensed landscaping businesses, an industry with average incomes below $ 40,000 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

There is an argument for subsidizing the transition. An electric leaf blower and batteries cost almost twice as much as a comparable petrol version. California estimates a complete conversion of nearly 3 million tools used by landscapers will cost $ 1.29 billion.

Bryan, a landscaper who only asked to be identified by his first name because he feared losing his business, uses a mix of electrical and gas appliances. The electric ones fall short.

“Right now I have 10 to 15 houses a day, but with power tools I can build seven or five houses a day,” he said. That’s a loss of $ 1,000 a week.

Bryan has already told his child that he cannot afford books or a new laptop. The cost of a complete upgrade by buying all the power tools would force him to increase the price by 30%. He fears that his private customers will buy their own tools and do it themselves, which drives him out of his job.

When the bill was signed, Berman and San Diego Rep. Lorena Gonzalez called it an environmental and human health benefit. Power tools were already widely used by California homeowners, but only a fraction of commercial landscaping companies have made the switch, according to a 2018 survey by the Air Resources Board.

Jorge Mijango of Ken’s Rototilling and Landscaping uses a chainsaw to cut trees to fight fires on property along Via Floreado in Orinda on November 16, 2021. The landscaping company owns around 50 gas-powered tools that could be affected by a government ban on new small gas engines. Aric Crabb / Bay Area News Group

A Ken’s Rototilling and Landscaping employee carries cut branches uphill during fire fighting work on property along Via Floreado Road in Orinda on November 16, 2021. Aric Crabb / Bay Area News Group

At this point, 8 out of 10 landscapers said they plan to purchase gas-powered equipment, with many prioritizing performance, run time and cost. But running a gas-powered leaf blower for an hour, for example, causes the same amount of pollution as driving a Toyota Camry from Los Angeles to Denver, according to the Air Board.

The lawn equipment rebuild will bring the rest of the state in line with cities like Palo Alto, Los Altos, and Menlo Park, which have already banned loud leaf blowers. The act also directs the Air Resources Committee to enact statewide regulations for other small power equipment such as golf carts, small generators, and pressure washers.

But the landscaping industry, the main target of the ban, says the transition has already been costly.

Steven Wood bought four batteries for his electric leaf blower after a number of communities in the Bay Area banned gas-powered leaf blowers. Woods, who owns a small landscaping company, realized immediately that the batteries weren’t going far enough.

“I’ve never spent $ 200 on something that took 45 minutes,” said Wood, “and it doesn’t do six to eight houses a day.”

Once the batteries run out, Wood’s two employees resort to raking, which takes three times as long to get a job done.

Tests support him.

Consumer reports rated gas and power tools like lawnmowers, leaf blowers, and grass trimmers side by side. The nonprofit consumer organization found that battery operated tools with low maintenance and ease of use are good candidates for homeowners with less than an acre of land who can wait to recharge their batteries. But when it came to larger plots, more robust weeds to destroy or long periods of use, gas tools excelled.

“As an industry, we want these (battery-powered) devices to be able to handle what we throw at them,” said Sandra Giarde, executive director of the California Landscape Contractors Association. “But it’s not there yet.”

Ken Tamplen, owner of Ken’s Rototilling and Landscaping, holds a chainsaw on a property along Via Floreado in Orinda on November 16, 2021 in Orinda. Aric Crabb / Bay Area News Group

The Air Resources Authority said the technology is close enough. While power tools don’t have the same level of performance, they offer other benefits like longer life, better torque for some tools, and savings on gasoline and maintenance, said air pollution specialist Christopher Dilbeck.

“We are aware that our proposals are associated with considerable costs,” said Dilbeck. “That is one reason why these funds are available.”

The board of directors, which will allocate the $ 30 million state subsidy, has yet to announce how it will distribute incentives other than saying it will target small operators, including those without a business license. In one scenario, California could offer 12,000 small-scale landscapers a 50% discount on all of their new tools, or each sole proprietorship could get a 50% discount on a tool.

“You won’t be able to get the job done anytime soon,” said Ken Tamplen, owner of Ken’s Rototilling, a landscaping company in Contra Costa County. “You won’t be able to make that much money.”

This article is part of the California division, a newsroom collaboration that studies income inequality and economic survival in California.

###

CALmatters.org is a non-profit, non-partisan media company that explains California politics and politics.

About Rachael Garcia

Check Also

Gas Heading To $ 4 A Gallon – When Could It Happen In NJ?

In recent months, New Jersey gas prices have been up to 10 cents a gallon …