By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Bladine: Is there enough electricity for our tools?

I’ve been thinking about replacing my gas-powered leaf blower with a modern electric model. That idea got a boost this week when Portland City Council approved a phased-in ban on gas blowers, which means similar government actions can’t be far behind.

My backpack blower is loud, smelly, and prone to maintenance needs if I don’t have it tuned and use ethanol-free gas. But it sure is powerful.

Electric blowers and other residential lawn-care tools are much improved with the latest lithium-ion battery technology, as evidenced by my recent Christmas gifts of small hedge trimmer and chainsaw units. The natural next-up in that conversion would be electric leaf blower.

Meanwhile, many commercial landscapers, park custodians and golf course workers are not yet applauding the move away from gas-powered equipment. They know their work will be greatly impacted by lower power output, limits on battery runtime, and increased costs and time requirements for charging infrastructure. Not to mention the cost of replacing gas-powered units with new lithium-ion tools.


Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

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The trend is set, and the march of technology seems destined to convert even the largest mowers and power washers. Gas-powered landscaping tools are well-known to be major CO2 and sound polluters, and pose health risks to year-round landscape workers. Electric tools are riding on the coattails of worldwide transition to electric cars, and that transition will be hastened as other cities and states approve Portland-like bans on gas-driven tools.

Farmers’ Almanac recently published a glowing analysis of electric landscaping equipment for homeowners, while admitting that “gas power rules” for professional landscapers. The article discussed electric tool advantages in ease of maintenance, reduced carbon footprint, storage convenience (no smell), less noise, lighter weight and cost savings of multi-use batteries.

Of course, as always, potential unintended consequences come from major change. This week, for example, The New York Times reported that America’s demand for electricity is surging to levels that put major power grids at risk.

“In an ironic twist,” states the article by Brad Plumer and Nadja Popovich, “the swelling appetite for more electricity, driven not only by electric cars but also by battery and solar factories and other aspects of the clean-energy transition, could also jeopardize the country’s plans to fight climate change.”

In other words, if renewable energy sources are insufficient to produce enough electricity, we may need more gas-powered plants to create the electricity we need to replace all that gas-powered equipment.

There’s something to think about this spring while using your new battery-operated lawn tools.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at or 503-687-1223.



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