Gas-powered generators add to pollution

Bailey Kirkeby, Co-Editor-In-Chief

In early October, after California’s largest electricity provider, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E), cut power to over two million people, numerous citizens quickly rushed to hardware stores to purchase portable generators.

Depending on its wattage and features, gasoline-powered portable generators cost around $400 to $1,500, according to the “Washington Post.” Unfortunately, these generators pose a troubling risk to California’s already poor air quality, as they tend to produce pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and small, sooty particles into the air.

According to Dr. Laki Tisopulos, executive officer of the Ventura County Air Pollution Control District, the increased number of generators during power shutdowns is a major concern.

“Imagine… you have hundreds or thousands of these engines kicking in,” Tisopulos said in a “Washington Post” article. “All of a sudden, you have many localized sources of pollution that are spewing carcinogens right where we breathe.”

Some of these generators are powered by diesel fuel, which releases diesel exhaust, a Group 1 carcinogenic that can cause lung cancer. Dr. John Balmes, a spokesman for the American Lung Association, reports that — in addition to posing risks for lung cancer — significant rises in diesel exhaust could worsen asthma symptoms.

Rather than using generators powered by diesel fuel, those wishing to purchase portable generators during power outages may want to consider switching to generators powered by cleaner fuels, such as natural gas or solar energy.