Alberta and Norway have a lot in common. They are both major oil producers, with similar populations and GDP. Both are northern regions with cold, snowy winters. And it turns out, they both buy similar numbers of new passenger vehicles each year.
But Alberta and Norway are climate opposites when it comes to the amount of CO2 their new cars are locking into our future. Take a look.
Five times more CO2
The number of new passenger vehicles that Albertans and Norwegians bought last year are shown by the car stacks on the chart — around 175,000 each.
The bars next to these car stacks show how much future climate pollution will be emitted from fuelling them over their lifespans.
As you can see, driving Alberta's new cars will dump around 11 million tonnes of CO2 (MtCO2) into the air. That's five times more than the same number of new cars in Norway.
Dirtier than coal power
Why are Albertans locking in so much more climate pollution per car? Because 98 per cent of their new cars can only burn carbon fuel. These are shown on the chart by the black car icons. These internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEVs) are the most climate-polluting kind. They emit more CO2 than coal power plants per unit of energy. Making the worst option even worse is the sad fact Canadians buy the world's most climate-polluting versions of ICEVs. Our average new ICEV dumps more than 60 tonnes of CO2 out its tailpipe.
Fifty times less CO2
The reason Norwegians' new cars will emit so much less is because they buy very few ICEVs anymore. Instead, Norwegians mostly buy the least climate-polluting option — pure battery electric cars (BEVs). These are shown in green on the chart. BEVs can run on Norway's low-carbon hydropower. As a result, each one will emit only around one tonne of CO2 from using that electricity as fuel over its lifespan. Driving on electricity in Norway emits 50 times less CO2 than burning fossil gasoline.
#Alberta and #Norway have a lot in common. Where they part ways is the amount of emissions they produce from driving. @bsaxifrage crunches the numbers for @natobserver. #EV #ElectricVehicles
To get a visual sense of what 50 times less climate pollution looks like, take a look at the tiny green line at the top of Norway's CO2 bar. That's the CO2 from driving all the green-coloured BEVs stacked next to it.
Policy drives pollution
Norwegians buy fewer climate polluting vehicles because government policies make this the easiest and best economic option for them.
For example, Norway taxes fossil gasoline at a rate equal to $600 per tonne of CO2 emitted. That's $440 more to dump each tonne of climate pollution out your tailpipe in Norway than in Canada. That adds up fast. The owner of an average new Canadian ICEV would pay $25,000 more in gas tax to drive it around in Norway than in Canada. This one policy alone is a far greater economic incentive for Norwegians to switch away from super-polluting ICEVs than all the "EV rebates" and "carbon taxes" offered to Canadians.
Norway's gas tax is a big stick. But they pair it with a generous suite of government "carrot" policies that reward BEVs as well. Together, these policies make it easy for Norwegians to choose the least climate-damaging cars.
If Norway, the biggest oil exporter in Western Europe, has been able to transition its citizens successfully and rapidly into low-emissions new cars, then Alberta and the rest of Canada certainly can, too.
- I've used the generic term "cars" in this article as shorthand for all light-duty passenger vehicles, including SUVs and pickup trucks.
- Eighty per cent of Canadians have electricity that is as low-carbon as Norway's. This includes electricity in Quebec, Ontario, B.C., Manitoba, and Newfoundland and Labrador. So, fuelling BEVs for most Canadians is also around 50 times less climate polluting than fuelling with fossil gasoline.
- Norway 65 — Canada 4: Despite having some of the world's cleanest electricity, just four per cent of new passenger vehicles in Canada were BEVs last year (StatCan Table 23-10-0067). In Norway, 65 per cent were. The world average was five per cent.
- The CO2 calculations from fuelling the cars are my own. The data and assumptions I used are listed in the fine print below the chart.