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Revolution in the Weedeater
June 5, 2002
By Joseph Arrieta

A striking revolution in internal combustion technology is quietly rippling through the neighborhoods of America. It’s a heartening story of regulation, change, triumph and hope that hardly anyone knows about.

The two-stroke engine is the dirtiest engine on the planet--the small portable workhorses that power trimmers, leaf blowers and chainsaws.

With California showing the lead, the EPA decided in 1998 to finally regulate those emissions on two-stroke engines. For once it wasn’t just window dressing, either: the cut was mandated at an 80% reduction. Yes, 80%.

Predictably, the manufacturers screamed bloody murder and frantically claimed that it couldn’t be done. There was a little problem in their response, though—it wasn’t unified. A few brave companies just shut up and got to work. (1)

When they produced engines that did indeed cut emissions by 80% the EPA examined the data, looked at the companies and said, sorry, it’s been demonstrated it can be done. So shut up or get out of the business.

None of them shut up. Some kept the existing two-stroke paradigm and extensively modified fuel intake mixtures and combustion techniques. Two switched to a 4 stroke, spending many millions of dollars to eliminate the previous weight problems.

All of those manufacturers are still in business, still making money, still producing quality products that do the job. They just have 80% (!) less emissions.

Yesterday the White House released a report that finally stated what everybody on the planet knew except the people who watch Fox News: that man-made emissions do indeed influence global climate changes. For the worse. But they’re not going to do anything about it.

Malfeasance. Irresponsibility. Denial. Stupidity. Dishonesty. All of those characterizations about this White House concerning internal combustion emissions are true, but they mask the real reason they refuse to do anything: this White House, like the devil’s handmaiden, is the protector of Greed and Fear.

The oil companies are rightly concerned that a reduction in emissions will, of course, mean less fuel consumed. Never underestimate the ability of this administration to coddle and protect the oil industry. From the President and VP on down, the cabinet is full of oil executives. No matter the national, environmental, or security interest threatened by oil consumption, George Bush has chosen oil company greed every time.

The auto manufacturers are petrified of abandoning their emission-heavy SUV money-makers. Better-managed, more nimble manufacturers (the Japanese) could meet the standards faster with better cars than they could and crush them in the market. To meet that challenge would mean extensive, hard work—-work they could easily fail at, given their past record of production performance. Fear of change is the driving force behind their strenuous objections to tough emission standards, nothing else.

The White House coddles their fear, of course. Leadership requires courage. As the day of 9/11 so aptly showed, courage is a character trait George Bush has in very short supply. (2)

The two-stroke revolution shows us all what can happen when regulators get tough and companies abandon their fear and greed to do the right thing. The only reason it happened this time is that most of the work in formulating the new rules occurred under Bill Clinton’s watch, a Democrat.

Today is June 5th, 2002. George Bush has approximately 915 days left to diddle away our environmental, national, and international security ignoring auto emission regulation. Once those 915 days are finally over we can look forward to a Democrat in leading this country out of our climate change problems.

1. Fortune Magazine, May 13th, Matthew Boyle

2. “I was trying to get out of harm’s way,” Bush said on his latest trip to Europe, referring to his jaunt to Nebraska on 9/11.

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