Al Gore, call your office!

A University of Toronto professor says owning an electric car in some Canadian provinces could actually be worse for the environment than conventional gas-powered automobiles.

In Alberta, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia, electric cars generate more carbon pollution over their lifetimes than gas-powered cars, according to Chris Kennedy, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Toronto, in an interview with CBC’s The Current.

electric car

Those provinces generate much of their electricity by burning coal, so consuming more electricity – such as by charging an electric car battery – significantly boosts carbon emissions.

“So… literally, if you’re living in Alberta, Saskatchewan or Nova Scotia, an electric car does not make you green?” wondered host Anna Maria Tremonti. “You’re better off filling up at the pump?”

“You’re better off filling up at the pump,” Kennedy said. “Or if you really want to go for something greener, you should be buying a conventional hybrid car.”

The professor published a commentary on the issue in the March issue of Nature Climate Change.

According to the CBC:

The carbon emissions from electricity generation are measured in tonnes of CO2 emitted per gigawatt hour of electricity produced. That ranges from:

* Close to 0 for hydroelectric, nuclear and renewable energy.
* 500 to 600 for natural gas power plants.
* 1,000 for coal-fired power plants.

Thus, Kennedy urges low-carbon sources of power.

“Electrification,” he said, “is the most pivotal strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.”

But for the time being, electric cars may be doing more harm than good.