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For once the environmental movement in California has the right idea. It’s for the wrong reasons, but it’s the right idea.

News reports say the governor there has signed legislation outlawing the sale of off-road gasoline engines, including lawn mowers, weed trimmers and chainsaws. The law becomes effective in January 2024 or another date that is more feasible.

They’re doing it to fight global climate damage. I don’t know about that. I do know that I have bought my last lawn mower or weed trimmer powered by an internal combustion engine.

I came to that realization a couple of weeks ago while I was pulling the cord to start my lawn mower. And pulling and pulling. It was nothing like starting my two-cycle weed trimmer. It’s been about four years since I started one of those with fewer than four pulls. Small engines and I just don’t get along.

With four-cycle engines, there is the engine oil you need to monitor. With two-cycle engines, it’s the fuel mixing. With both, there are the gas cans with the spouts that people like me can’t understand. They’re supposed to keep gasoline vapors out of the air, but when I remove them entirely to pour gasoline into the lawn mower’s fuel tank, I probably spill enough fuel to replace the fumes the spouts prevent.

Filling the fuel tank, operating the choke, pulling the cord 10 or 12 times — no, thanks.

According to, research has shown that electric-powered cars produce fewer emissions of carbon dioxide than fossil-fueled power cars except in countries where most of the electric grid is powered by coal. Given West Virginia’s reliance on coal-burning power plants, electric vehicles could be bigger polluters than gasoline-powered ones. If that’s not the case, surely someone will provide the evidence.

How that translates to lawn mowers and chainsaws, I don’t know. Right now, I don’t care. It has nothing to do with why my household is moving to battery-powered or plug-in lawn care tools. The technology of electric-powered tools has made them competitive.

My family does have one gasoline-powered piece of equipment that I don’t foresee being replaced by a battery-powered one soon. That’s the small generator we bought when our power was out for 15 days and 12 hours back in February because of the back-to-back ice storms. There is hope there, however. Once other needs are addressed, we hope to afford a larger propane-powered generator someday. By then, who knows how far battery technology will have advanced.

We might have to reserve a spot in our basement for a battery that can take over for the grid when the power lines go down. But that’s way off in the future.

So no, we’re not making the change as part of the war on climate change. We’re doing it because it’s the best for us. For now, electric vehicles are not a good fit for our family. The present range of about 300 miles isn’t enough for a trip to Bluefield and back. Once we can drive, say, 1,000 miles in a day on one charge, we might consider an EV. Until then, no thanks.

Someone can sell us an electric weed trimmer, though.

Jim Ross is development and opinion editor of The Herald-Dispatch. His email address is

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