Nine years ago, I predicted that lawn mowers would one day fall victim to onerous and unnecessary EPA air pollution standards, despite Clinton EPA administrator Carol Browner having stated in sworn testimony to Congress in 1997 that such regulations are "not about outdoor barbecues and lawn mowers." Frank O'Donnell, then-executive director of the Clean Air Trust, called talk of regulating lawn mowers "crazed propaganda."
Today, however, EPA openly seeks implementation of pollution standards for lawn mowers that would supposedly cut smog-causing emissions by 35 percent. As for O'Donnell, he's now president of Clean Air Watch where he's working hard to implement that "crazed propaganda."
So what else is new? The EPA and green groups lie because they're on a mission: Where you might see a freshly-mowed lawn, they see an opportunity to extend another regulatory tentacle.
But the EPA's clean air standards are based on false claims and shaky science.
Lawn-mower emissions comprise perhaps 3 percent of all EPA-monitored air pollutants, according to the agency's National Emissions Inventory. Meanwhile those overall emissions are less than half of what they were in 1970. Thirty-five percent of 3 percent of 50 percent of what we breathed a generation ago is essentially equivalent to a hair on a flea's leg. A small flea.
But the EPA and greens persist in making spectacular-sounding but misleading claims, including that lawn mowers produce 93 times more smog-forming emissions than automobiles. They derive this figure by using an absurd per-hour comparison – without noting that the average car is driven 11,000 miles a year while the average lawn mower is used perhaps an hour a week during the growing season.
Further, the EPA can only make that claim because, according to the National Research Council, "per-mile-exhaust emissions of new, properly operating light-duty vehicles [decreased] by 95-99 percent in 2004 compared with emissions of 1967 model-year vehicles." Moreover, lawn mowers have also made progress, with industry claiming to have cut emissions by 75 percent compared to 1990 models.
There are also safety concerns. The EPA proposal would almost certainly require installation of catalytic converters. Yet the heat put off by catalytic converters is such that the EPA itself recommends against parking cars in tall grass because of the chance of fire. But using such a device on a machine that is in constant contact with grass is okay?
George Miller, chairman of the nonprofit International Consortium for Fire Safety, Health and the Environment, also worries about the safety issue, despite assurances from EPA that it has studied potential hazards.
Michael Fumento is a, journalist, and attorney specializing in science and health issues as well as author of BioEvolution: How Biotechnology is Changing Our World .
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