July 2, 2018 Testimony of Gregg Easterbrook

From the D.C. Council Committee of the Whole Hearing on July 2, 2018. testimony from Gregg Easterbrook.

Mendelson: Thank you, Councilmember Cheh. Thank you to each of you for your testimony. 
Gregg Easterbrook. Susan Orlins. Haskell Small. And Lucia Buchanan Pierce. Mr. Easterbrook?

Easterbrook: Thank you, Councilmembers Mendelson and Cheh. My name is Gregg Easterbrook. I'm a contributing editor of the Atlantic Monthly and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. My Atlantic Monthly colleague, James Fallows, a former White House official, is submitting for the record a detailed statement that I will present here in a fast-forward version. I've written extensively about the interaction of new technology and quality of life, including in my current book. The conclusion reached is relevant to what the Council is considering today. It is as follows. In every case -- not in many cases -- in every case when clean, new technology replaces obsolete technology, quality of life improves, costs are lower than expected, and people say, "Why didn't we do this sooner?" 

Replacing out-of-date, two-stroke gasoline leaf blowers -- that is a mouthful to say, that's what they are -- with advanced battery-powered models will be the same. Initially, people will complain about excessive government intervention. Once the reform is in place, they will say, "Why didn't we do this sooner?" 

A guiding example is the interaction between Americans and technology, as concerns the automobiles. For 50 years, cars have gotten safer, cleaner, and more reliable, while adding countless features. At every turn, industry predicted incredible expense, technical impossibility, or consumer revolt. None of these things happened. Today any new car emits about one percent of the smog of cars of a generation ago. It has more horsepower and higher mileage. Risk of death per mile traveled today is about one-quarter of what it was a generation ago. Meanwhile, the inflation-adjusted cost of cars has been about the same. 

Yard equipment obviously is not as important as cars, but moving from obsolete leaf blowers to new models will follow the same sequence. Safer and cleaner, while benefits exceed the costs. Now, if the sound of leaf blowers were essential for society, that would be that, but if the sound of antiquated engines can be eliminated, everyone will say, "Why didn't we do it sooner?" By acting now, the District can take a leadership position. Thank you.