Air Quality Matters – 2014 in review: Mobile sources – Part 5: Off-road

“Off-road,” well, those are those “other” mobile emissions’ sources. Everything mobile-source-wise that isn’t “on-road,” in other words, is the best way that I know to describe it.

Now, about my neighborhood, every week lawn care professionals make their rounds armed with their mowers, trimmers, edgers and leaf-blowers tending lawns and yards the way they do, showing up week-in and week-out with such regularity, you could practically set your clocks and watches by their schedules. Those mowers, trimmers, edgers and leaf-blowers – they are not the cleanest, let me tell you. I don’t think I would be wrong in declaring that the engines powering these devices are some of the dirtiest-burning engines going. The exhaust from these, have a definite and distinctive smell. The mowers, trimmers and edgers – individually or combined, if that doesn’t cause a stir, the clouds of dirt, dust and debris that the blowers kick up, will.

Aside from these, other off-road mobile sources can be found on farms; at construction sites; at beaches, on the slopes, out in the wilderness (vehicles used for recreational purposes, primarily); and other equipment needed necessary to perform a work-related task, unless these are zero-polluting, well, you get the picture.

Off-road – from: “Particulates uncovered: Diesel, soot get closer look” (May 5):

“[T]he ARB [California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board] relates: ‘There are two categories of PM sources. Primary PM is released directly into the atmosphere, such as dust or soot, while secondary PM is formed in the atmosphere by the chemical reactions of gases, such as nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, ammonia and volatile organic compounds. Both primary and secondary sources must be controlled in order to reduce ambient PM.’ 3

“Meanwhile, the ARB lists major contributing PM sources:

  • Trucks
  • Passenger cars
  • Off-road equipment
  • Residential wood-burning
  • Forest and agricultural burning
  • Electric power generation and industrial sources4

“‘Dust from paved and unpaved roads, and construction, mining, and agricultural activities also contribute to PM2.5,’ the ARB pointed out.5

Now, onto what can be done about it.

From “To sequester harmful emissions start with transportation – Part 1: Trucks” (Sept. 21):

“On Oct. 25, 2008, I attended locally what was called the ‘Transportation Energy and Fuels Forum’ at Fresno City College, of which a principal topic of discussion was air pollution. Add to this the step I took to lower my own impact on air: trading in my air-polluting, gas-powered lawn mower for an electric model equipped with a rechargeable battery. Related to this, I wait for days when air is relatively clean and temperature relatively cool to mow. The two often go hand-in-hand.”

A few paragraphs later, I wrote: “For starters, just for NOx [nitrogen oxides] alone, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District in its Board Meeting Minutes for June 21, 2007 on page 3 stipulated: ‘With mobile source emissions constituting 80% of the Valley’s total NOx emissions, the bulk of the necessary emissions reduction must come from state and federal control measures for mobile sources. These measures will include more stringent tail-pipe standards for new on-road and off-road mobile sources, and regulations designed to accelerate the deployment of newer, cleaner engines.’ Again, this was back in 2007.”

End notes

If you have kept up with some or all of what is in the “Air Quality Matters – 2014 in review” series, regarding mobile- and/or stationary-sources sectors alike, you have probably noticed a familiar theme running throughout: mention of innovative or technological approaches employed as means to bring about marked reductions in polluted air.

Over the five parts of this yearly review, much ground was covered. Part 5 is the last in this mobile-sources series.


Image above: NASA

– Alan Kandel