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California Landscapers Worried About Green Energy Transition

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California Landscapers Worried About Green Energy Transition

A worker shapes a dirt mound while working on a landscaping job in San Rafael, Calif., on May 23, 2007. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Sophie LiSiyamak Khorrami

Sophie Li & Siyamak Khorrami

8/23/2023

Updated: 10/19/2023

Many of the landscapers who create residents’ neatly trimmed lawns and shrubs could potentially go out of business under California’s ban on the sale of gas-powered gardening equipment starting in 2024, according to Jay Martinez, CEO of JVM Landscape Construction, located in the Sacramento area.
Landscapers who need new supplies will be required to buy electric lawnmowers and leaf blowers instead, but such a transition is not as simple as it may sound, said Mr. Martinez. Such a ban also applies to equipment purchased for private use.
“In order to procure that equipment, the cost of that can be upwards of 400 percent more to the small business owner,” Mr. Martinez said in a recent episode of EpochTV’s “California Insider.” “We could find a decent one ... for $3,000 to $4,000. [But] if you were to try to find that same one, that’s the electric version of it, that can go up to ... about $12,000.”
Additionally, he said, the battery’s endurance and charging will be another concern for these businesses.
“If there are three employees on a truck, you’re going to have to have about 50 batteries to get through the day,” he said, citing a study his company had done.
Another California landscaper, Arnulfo Hermosillo, who has hands-on experience with both gas-powered and electric models, expressed his concern about the latter one’s low efficiency. Work that normally takes about 45 minutes to finish using gas-powered equipment, Mr. Hermosillo said, takes up to two hours when using electric tools.
Such differences stem in part from the newer model’s technology lacking the same robustness as the conventional type, Mr. Martinez said, and this shortfall could lead to small companies who don’t have enough manpower and equipment to lose business.
“They'll be having to work more just to make what they were making, or eventually, they may have to wise up and charge a little bit more, which is unfortunate [to customers] as well,” he said.
The ban, initiated in 2021 by the state Legislature, which directed the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to adopt the new regulations, is part of California’s latest effort to transition toward a carbon-neutral economy. According to the rules, portable generators are also subject to the ban starting in 2028.
A worker (L) grabs a leaf blower as his co-worker takes a drink of water, while doing landscape work, in Perris, Calif., on June 16, 2016. (Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)

A worker (L) grabs a leaf blower as his co-worker takes a drink of water, while doing landscape work, in Perris, Calif., on June 16, 2016. (Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)

“Small gas engines are not only bad for our environment and contributing to our climate crisis, they can cause asthma and other health issues for workers who use them,” said then state Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), co-author of the bill, in a 2021 statement.
According to CARB, mowing for an hour with a commercial lawn mower emits smog comparable to driving a new light-duty passenger car for 300 miles, while leaf blowers are worse, emitting smog equivalent to a 1100-mile journey.
Jim Phelps, a California energy consultant, said that another concern regarding the state’s aggressive transition to using batteries is that people could be underestimating the energy it takes to make and to charge those batteries versus the energy they can supply.
“One of the things that people really need to come to terms with is in this whole clean energy revolution is how much energy we’re actually losing by getting clean,” he said.
Additionally, Mr. Phelps said that it is important to consider that the process of making a battery is not as “clean” as most people think—due to the heavy mining of raw materials, like cobalt and lithium, required. While electric-powered equipment appears to be zero-emission on the consumer end of the equation, it creates a considerable amount of carbon emission during its making, he said.
A man waters his lawn in Alhambra, Calif., on April 27, 2022. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

A man waters his lawn in Alhambra, Calif., on April 27, 2022. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

Meanwhile, another landscaping business owner said that she’s also worried about the practical issues of such a transition.
Elizabeth Burns, president of Zone 24 Landscaping, located in the Los Angeles area, said that some of the portable equipment available is not suitable for some yard work, However, dragging an extension cord through a yard to operate such equipment could damage the landscaping. Moreover, she said that this concern could escalate when operating in areas where there is no access to electrical power.
“You have the woman from the Pacific Crest Trail that has to send people out on these trails to do the trimming every year for the backpackers and the people that go along the [trail]. How are they going to plug in their equipment?” she said.
Overbearing the grid, Ms. Burns said, is another concern she has about the state’s transition toward using electricity only.
“I don’t believe we have the infrastructure set in place. So how ... are they going to be able to sustain us with all of this extra electrical going in?” she added. “That to me is the biggest white elephant in the room.
“I believe very much so that they’ve put the cart before the horse,” she said.
Sophie Li

Sophie Li

Author

Sophie Li is a Southern California-based reporter covering local daily news, state policies, and breaking news for The Epoch Times. Besides writing, she is also passionate about reading, photography, and tennis.

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Siyamak Khorrami

Siyamak Khorrami

Author

Siyamak Khorrami has been the general manager and chief editor of the Southern California edition of The Epoch Times since 2017. He is also the host of the “California Insider” show, which showcases leaders and professionals across the state with inside information about trending topics and critical issues in California.

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