Small Engine Mowers Are Forced to Go Green

In early September 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) passed new regulations that will cause small engine makers like Briggs and Stratton to rethink how they make and market their engines.

The design of new laws that seek to reduce small engine emissions by 35% is to ensure a smaller carbon footprint and save Americans money, but it will cost them initially. This is justified by the promise of a savings of 190 million gallons of gasoline each year once all small engines are converted to emission-busting standards in 2011.

As with almost any advancement in lowing lawn mower emissions the consumer will see an increase in cost with the new systems. While we may think of this change in relation to lawn mowers we can't forget gas powered weed trimmers, hedgers and recreational watercraft.

The truth is marine equipment that relies on small engines will have to meet the new requirements by 2010. They will also be required to reduce marine motor emissions by 70%.

Most analysts are agreed that any small engine change that could affect this kind of reduction in emissions would likely require the use of a catalytic converter.

Small engine manufacturers have opposed these rules for years, and had the backing of Senator Kit Bond from Missouri who sided with manufacturers who may have considered the proposed regulations as too restrictive and feared a larger price tag might mean dissatisfied customers. Many now believe the change was either inevitable or timely depending entirely on perspective.

It has been estimated by the EPA that the changes will likely cost about $235 million a year. Most of that increase will be passed on to the consumer. Briggs and Stratton officials have made it clear the cost of their motors will go up when these new regulations take effect.

Many lawn care professionals have expressed concern over the inevitable price increase leaving some to wonder if they can continue in a business that, for some, has been a life long love affair with the outdoors. To put this in perspective a lawn care provider has already accepted the loss of revenue from higher fuel prices, but even if they replaced older equipment with lesser quality new equipment it will still cost from $35-$180 more per mower. This has the potential of eroding an already slim profit margin.

As with any report there is always another perspective. The news that excites many is a statement made by Bill Becker who heads the National Association of Clean Air Agencies. Becker stated, "This rule will be the air pollution equivalent of removing one out of every five cars and trucks on the road."

Analysts further expect fewer deaths associated with lawn mower emissions as well as other small engine carbon based discharge.

Many retailers have already concluded that when it comes to small engine machinery they will not likely see a drop in sales, at least when it comes to mowers. The prevailing belief is that while a jet ski might be a luxury a mower is often a necessity.

Some retailers are also stocking up on existing mowers due to the fact they will be grandfathered in. Existing units will not be subject to the new EPA rules so some business owners will attempt to stockpile older units for sale even after the new regulations go into effect.

Small engine manufacturers have expressed a commitment to work with regulators to find solutions to a drop in overall emissions and will be aiming at the target dates set by the EPA.

~Ben Anton, 2008


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