Lawn, related equipment-emissions output could outstrip light-duty vehicles’ in So Cal if …

In California, the California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board (ARB) refers to lawn mowers, garden and other outdoor power equipment equipped with spark-ignition engines as “small off-road engines,” the acronym being SORE. For the record, the power rating of such is limited to 25 horsepower max.

Now, add to this that in the Golden State, this equipment (with spark-ignition engines) totals 16.5 million units, outnumbering in-state registered light-duty vehicles by 2.8 million, according to the ARB, the air regulatory agency further relating that said lawn and garden equipment accounts for 76 percent of the total (12.6 million units); while construction and farming equipment which, by the way, is federally regulated, commercial lawn and garden and other types of small-engine devices, number 1.8 million (11 percent), 1.5 million (9 percent) and 600,000 (4 percent) units, respectively.

Backpack leaf blower

The ARB goes on to point out that an hour’s operation of today’s best-selling gasoline-fueled, spark-ignition-engine-equipped lawn-mower releases as much smog-forming pollution into the air as a 2016 Toyota Camry covering a driving distance of about 300 miles. The best-selling leaf blower, meanwhile, emits about as much smog-forming pollution as the same vehicle traveling almost four times that or 1,100 miles. Remember: those are the best-selling in their respective categories.

Furthermore, in 2016, equipment in the small-engines category emitted more than 50 tons per day of smog-forming emissions while light-duty vehicles traveling roadways that year released right around 70 tons per day in the South Coast Air Basin, according to ARB data.1

Without improvements made in the small-engines equipment domain, that relationship in the South Coast region could dramatically change.

It is important to note that the South Coast region – which includes the Los Angeles and Long Beach communities – is America’s smog capital. And, while it is evident that emissions from light-duty vehicles on the road in California are becoming fewer and fewer through the use of cleaner-burning fuels and engines, in the case of internal-combustion-engine-powered lawn, garden and related equipment, not so much it seems.

That being said, if a substantial amount of this equipment were equipped with better performing engines and burned fuel far more cleanly, this would definitely go a long ways to help improve not only California’s air quality, but potentially the quality of air in other states too.


  1. Small Engine Fact Sheet, California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board, Jun. 2017.

Image above: Anthony Appleyard

This post was last revised on Dec. 10, 2020 @ 12:14 p.m. Pacific Standard Time.

Published by Alan Kandel

1 thought on “Lawn, related equipment-emissions output could outstrip light-duty vehicles’ in So Cal if …”

  1. Utter nonsense. ARB is filled with busybodies who have nothing better to do than make life miserable for the citizens of California. The air quality in the LA basin, which used to be “smog central” 45 years ago is just fine now due to catalytic converters and other smog reducing equipment installed on cars and in industry………and has been for over 25 years. The mountain range back dropping LA can be seen virtually every day of he year. No one who exercises in the LA basin outdoors has “ozone lung burn” anymore. Whatever “smog” these small gas engines that power lawn mowers and air blowers generate is insignificant and has no effect whatsoever on air quality. This is all about government bureaurats pushing their agenda of “sustainability” on the population and controlling the masses in the way they want to control them and taxing them in any way they can to generate more revenue for the corrupt state. In other words, their job is to take away liberties and freedoms while fattening the state coffers of a bloated bureaucracy.

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