Grass, gas and... water

Departments - Editor's Notebook

At the annual OPEI meeting, manufacturers outline plans to fight regulations on fuel, water and the managed landscape.

August 13, 2012
Chuck Bowen
From left, Mike Hoffman, chairman and CEO, the Toro Company; Mike Ariens, chairman, Ariens Company; Dan Ariens, president and CEO, Ariens Company and chairman of the OPEI board; Tom Skove, assistant general counsel of environmental and regulatory compliance, MTD Products; and Kris Kiser, president and CEO, OPEI

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Green industry equipment suppliers continue to promote turf in schools and the halls of Congress, not just on issues of emissions and fuel, but also water and the benefits of landscapes.

Executives from major equipment manufacturers gathered at the annual meeting of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute in late June to discuss the association’s growing Turf Mutt program, its lobbying efforts against E15 fuel and its work to develop standards for water use.

Water Work.
Mark Schmidt, chief scientist at John Deere, is leading work to develop an ANSI standard for water use in managed landscapes. As the green industry continues to face pressure from regulatory agencies and the public about water use of green spaces, a science-based standard can help better define a “sustainable” environment, he says.

Among other things, the document the committee is developing with the Association of Agricultural and Biological Engineers standardizes the process for calculating water budgets and the water requirements of landscape plants.

“When people say landscapes need to change, I would suggest they need to evolve,” Schmidt says. “It’s not plants that waste water, it’s people. … If we can prove the value of the landscape, and that’s something we can achieve, we can justify the value of those inputs.”

Turf Mutt. OPEI has expanded its canine-based educational program that promotes the value of green spaces. Turf Mutt, developed with Discovery Education, has expanded to include curriculum for kindergarteners through second graders, as well as third through fifth graders.

The program’s recent Spruce Up Your School sweepstakes, which encouraged students to increase greenspace around their schools, received more than 16,000 entries. The winning school received $5,000 from OPEI to plant shade trees and install benches.

The fight continues against EPA’s partial waiver for E15 fuels. The fuel, with a higher level of ethanol, has been approved by the government for on-road vehicles built before 2001, but not power equipment, and has been shown to cause failure in small engines. OPEI president and CEO Kris Kiser said he expected a decision soon on a lawsuit that would prevent sale of the fuel at all. As of press time, no final decision had been made.

2012 election. Howard Fineman, editorial director for the Huffington Post, spoke to attendees about the current state of politics in America, and gave his predictions for the upcoming presidential election.

Fineman said Florida, Ohio and Colorado are the most important states in November, then Iowa, North Carolina and Nevada. The Hispanic populations in those states, as well as unions, will play crucial roles, he says.

An after many years spent reporting on Washington for Newsweek, NBC and HuffPo, Fineman called American politics a “WWF sort of exercise, and that’s sad.” And regardless of political affiliation, the most pressing issues facing the country are how the nation will deal with taxes, social programs and a growing culture of fear.

“We’re going to have to simplify the tax code so it does the best it can to help and not hinder the economy,” Fineman says. We’re going to have to have a grown-up discussion about what social welfare costs we can afford as a society.”