Gas Blowers and Silly City Ordinances

Yesterday morning I walked by a gardener using a blower to clear leaves off of a sidewalk patio in front of a Starbucks. What was interesting was that he was using an electric blower that was plugged into a portable generator that was on a small cart that he was pulling around behind him.

Al Gore would have had a fit had he seen this.

Two observations sprang immediately to mind.

1) He is probably using an electric blower because a gasoline powered blower is outlawed in the city of Palo Alto, California (where this gentlemen happened to be working). [A this point in this post, long time readers will now be anticipating my obviously cynical view of lawyers — which is ironic — or perhaps not — given that I am a lawyer myself.] This combination of generator and electric blower is very gimmick that cries out for application of the “step transaction doctrine” — “thou shalt not do in two steps what is prohibited to have been done in one”. The only difference between: (i) a gas generator / electric blower combo and (ii) a pure gas blower is that both items of the combo are contained in the same unit in the outlawed gas powered blower. I am not saying that this combination is illegal — in fact, if you look at the Q&A on the Palo Alto Police Department Website, the fourth question (and answer) from the bottom clearly indicates that this combination is permitted.

Which brings me to the second observation that sprang immediately to mind…

2) The use of an electric generator / electric blower combination is far less efficient and far more harmful to the environment that a gasoline blower. As you will note from this comment to an earlier post, the efficiency of a power generation / utilization transaction declines sharply the more “conversions” you insert into the transaction. In other words, if you use a windmill to directly drive a pump, you get more “pumping” per turn of the windmill than if you used the windmill to generate electricity and then used the electricity to power the pump. As a result of this silly loophole in the city ordinance, the city is getting a worse deal than if the gentlemen were permitted to use a gas powered blower.

If I could have my way, Palo Alto would require that either: (i) leafs be cleared away with rakes and brooms; or (ii) electric blowers be plugging into a stationary outlets.

But then I probably won’t get my way. After all, Al Gore wasn’t with me at the time.

2 Replies to “Gas Blowers and Silly City Ordinances”

  1. You have hit the nail on the head. In religious circles we call this following the letter but not the spirit of the law, but I like your description of “silly loophole” better.


  2. Maybe you religious types are able to discern the “spirit” of rules objectively (or at least collective subjectively).

    Unfortunately, I know many lawyers who can’t tell you what the spirit of a law is until after you tell them what you want it to be.

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