Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Why we don't trust the media, vol. MMCIX

They just make stuff up:

From "The First Thing We Do, Let’s Kill All the Leaf Blowers" (NYT). 

And there's this: "hydrocarbon emissions from a half-hour of yard work with the two-stroke leaf blower are about the same as a 3,900-mile drive from Texas to Alaska in a Raptor." 

 Raptor = Tricked out F-150.

And this isn't just "the media" - This is the NEW YORK TIMES.  It's supposed to be the Gold Standard of journalism, and they come out with this Bravo Sierra.  And it's not even good Bravo Sierra.



Tacitus said...

In the category of "even a blind pig finds the occasional acorn" I actually am with the NYT on this one. Leaf blowers are loud and obnoxious. And they replace a generally pleasant task that is good for your soul.

2 cycle engines are messy things.

Got me a rake.


ambisinistral said...

Latin lawn care workers us leaf blowers. Our elite betters just don't want to be bothered by the noise so they'll kill the gas powered ones for no good reason. Can't have your quiet and tranquility bothered by the 'little people' you've hired to tend to your lawn.

Jess said...

Leaf blowers are easier to demonize than the private jets used by politicians and celebrities.

Will said...

What will happen is a switch to battery powered blowers that will cost more than the gas units. The batteries needed are HEAVY. And expensive.

Chargers will be needed that are powered by the truck, or a separate generator, that will be running the entire time they are working, to charge the batteries that will be needed for the next job. Either that, or buying a set for EACH job site, that will be charged overnight. THAT is a significant cost outlay.

Next will be the demand that the other tools be battery powered for noise control. At that point, the cost to start a lawn care business gets unafordable for most people, and the price for service will skyrocket, to where too many people won't pay for it anymore. Expect that your town will get ugly as this happens. Saw this in San Jose when lawncare declined noticeably during early covid time.

Beans said...

The same idiots who want 2-cycle powered, or even 4-cycle powered lawn equipment are the same idiots that support HOA restrictions that fine people for having tall grass or non-allowed plants in their yard.

So, well, stupid is stupid.

Aesop said...

These are people who think they can mandate square circles because they wish it, and believe that Heinlein was wrong, and that There Is Such A Thing As A Free Lunch.

In their heart of hearts, they think true communism exists, and ought to be tried good and hard,starting with your money; and that if they could just crack the code, they could talk to the animals, like the kid who got eaten by grizzlies in Alaska.

And if they could just find a two-stroke leafblower that burned 434 gallons of fuel an hour, they'd be onto something.

the correction will note that they forgot to disclose that in that equation, they neglected to mention the cost of the fuel tanker trunk idling by the lawn to refuel the leaf blower set to run at 42,000 rpm, and shooting out 30-foot gasoline flames.

At which point, their dubious chemical equation balances out.

Chris Nelson said...

These people have obviously not done any yard work in their life.

Let me rephrase that: These people have not done any real work at all in their life.

Probably the same group that thinks food is grown by throwing seeds at the ground and waiting.

Let me rephrase that: Probably the same group that thinks food magically appears on the store shelves.

Jonathan H said...

Yup, and I bet they're the same people in California that mandate green lawns AND mandate reduced water usage due to a drought...

BillM said...

Technically the NYT appears to be correct. It's cherry picked data
from a study done in 2011. They don't mention that the truck far
exceeds the leaf blower in other pollutants---just carbon. No mention that in the last 10 years there has been a hard swing to small efficient 4 stroke motors on lawn care equipment. No mention that if you want un-biased "just the facts" news you have a better chance with Pravda than the NYT---

Johan said...

@Aesop, If you can't tell the difference between a carbon emission and a Hydrocarbon emission you are too short for this ride. Their math works out fine, the trick they are pulling is getting you to confuse carbon emissions (CO2 from combustion) and hydrocarbon emissions (unburnt gasoline from incomplete combustion).
Modern trucks have a lot of work done to keep the gas system sealed and computer controlled injectors to make sure they get the most out of the gas, exhaust systems to make sure they burn up anything that escapes. Two stroke engines are notorious for incomplete combustion to the point we all know the smell of lawn work.

juvat said...

Well, I've got a leaf blower, an F-150 and live in Texas. I think I'll drive to Alaska, detour through Seattle and toss the leaf blower (filled with gas of course) into one of their eternal flame bonfires. This will single handedly save Gaia forever. But...Can I wait until it gets a little warmer up there?

What a crock of horse hockey!

Goober said...

I guess I'm not seeing where anyone did the math on this. We've got one side making a claim, the other disputing it, but nobody actually showing the numbers.

Also, they specifically said HYDROcarbon emissions, not carbon emissions. A modern Ford Raptor (or any modern vehicle) actually emits very little HYDROcarbon emissions, whereas a 2-stroke engine does, indeed, create a LOT of them, so while the claim, on it's face, seems dubious, I'd actually approach the claim with a "trust but verify" approach.

As far as CO2 emissions (colloquially called "carbon emissions") this claim is totally false. But that's not what they're saying. They're talking about HYDROcarbon emissions, and with modern emissions, computerized fuel injection, catalytic converters, evaporative recycling, etc, I would actually believe that the claim is true (or at least I wouldn't dismiss it without first verifying it). And so, I did some research... stand by...

Goober said...


"The FTP 75 test simulates 11.04 miles driven over 31.2 minutes and includes idle periods, accelerations, decelerations and cruising. This driving cycle works great when testing things that boast driven wheels: less so for leaf blowers which, of course, don't...

...Therefore we needed to come up with a test for the leaf blowers that provided a basis of comparison to the vehicles, yet still reflects the way lawn equipment is actually used in practice. Observe leaf blowers in the wild and you'll find they are very often operated at either full whack or idle. Our test would have to mimic this usage pattern...

...With these factors in mind, the test we crafted for the leaf blowers followed the FTP 75's duration and speed-up/slow-down pattern with a twist — we substituted vehicle speed with leaf blower speed. We gave the blowers full speed during the cruise periods defined by the FTP 75. The idle periods remained idle periods and boom, there's our leaf blower emissions test...

...This lab equipment measures all kinds of compounds coming out of the tailpipe but the three we will focus on are those with which EPA and CARB are primarily concerned, namely, non-methane hydrocarbons (NMHC), oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and carbon monoxide (CO)...

...Here, then, are pollutants measured during our testing expressed in weighted grams per minute:

2011 Ford Raptor Hydrocarbons: .005
2-stroke leaf blower: 1.495

If I'm doing my math correctly, that's about 300 times more hydrocarbon emissions (although the Edmunds article says 36 times, but I can't really make that math work...).

The test simulated about 30 minutes of use (they figure about 11.4 miles of driving in the Raptor), and 11.4 times 300 is 3,420 (meaning a 3,420 mile trip to equal net hydrocarbon emissions Ford to leaf blower).

So, at least from this Edmunds.com article, the rough numbers seem to match up.

SO, at least if you trust Edmunds.com, the numbers in the NYT article seem to at least match Edmunds.com's test experience.

None of this is scientific proof, by any means, but from a separate, unaffiliated source that did a reasonable test to check the claim, it's at least possible and even believable.

Borepatch said...

Goober, I didn't bother with the math because their argument is ridiculous on its face. The amount of pollution from a quarter gallon of gas is ridiculous on its face. The fact that the NYT reporter included this comparison shows the frivolity of the argument.

De minibus Borepatch non curat, and all that.

Aesop said...


What Borepatch said, above.

The idea, for any value of that word, that a pickup truck burning 205+ gallons of unleaded throughout what would be a trip of something like 60 hours, not including rest stops, produces less pollution of any kind, carbon, hydrocarbon, or even Jedi mitochlorions - than a weed blower going through less than a gallon of same in a half an hour is recockulous, prima facie, and always will be.

Explaining why and how they lied, at that point, is only explaining to rubes where the rabbit was during the trick by using a plexiglass table and hat and a clear plastic tablecloth, with a magician in only his underpants.

Figures don't lie, but liars figure.

Aesop said...

The proof of the pudding is this:
I'll stand in a sealed plexiglass 20'x20'x 20' cube.
The NYT author will stand in an identical one.
I'll fire up a two-stroke weedwacker for half an hour.
Into his, we'll vent the exhaust emissions of the F-150, for 60 hours.

At the conclusion of the experiment, the winner writes the story explaining which item is a greater risk to planetary air quality, and to what extent.

And as an added bonus, we'll have one less NYT reporter.

Goober said...


The "too long, didn't read" of my post above is that you could burn 1000 gallons of gas, if your hydrocarbon emissions are essentially zero, you will have less hydrocarbon emissions than burning 1/4 gallon of gas in a dirty 2-stroke.

Your logic is flawed.

Goober said...

Aesop, on your plexiglass example, again, its flawed logic.

The emissions that kil you are CO, not hydrocarbons. Modern cars produce vanishingly small amounts of hydrocarbons due to the aftertreatment systems.

Borepatch said...

Goober, the fact that what the NYT writer wrote is technically correct is kind of my point here. It's really no different from burying the lede in paragraph 17 because they know that almost nobody will read that far. Yes, they can technically say that they did actually disclose XYZ, but they still misled their readers because XYZ makes it clear that their story was Bravo Sierra.

The impression that the writer tried to give is "weed whackers pollute more than pickup trucks". Sure, they have a little asterisk that says "but only for one out of eleventy types of pollution". They do it because that's what they do.

But it's a crock, and it's why we don't - and shouldn't - trust the media. And it's so glaringly obvious that I didn't bother to run the numbers because like Aesop said, I see what the magician is doing. It's corrupt, and I'm not going to play along.

Goober said...

Borepatch - Ahhh, ok, I get it now. Apparently the point went right over my head.

And of course, you're correct, there.

Aesop said...


You're still not getting it:
The NYT is correct on a technically irrelevant point.
They are still categorically full of shit, and lying with data.

Of course what kills the NYT reporter will be CO poisoning.
WTF didja think I put him in a plexiglass cube?!?

In this thread, you're the guy in the theater going "No, no, witches can't be killed by tornadoes dropping a house on them!"

You're going to lose your whole mind when Spock talks to whales.