John Merline writes for Issues & Insights about the increased push for electric cars.

How is it possible that the air is vastly cleaner? Because new cars are more efficient and less polluting. And as the fleet of cars turns over, air pollution levels steadily decline.

Yet news outlets like Bloomberg continue to peddle the myth that air pollution is terrible and getting worse, and that the only way to clean the air is by taking draconian actions like forcing people into cars they don’t want or modes of transportation that don’t meet their needs.

Worse, they perpetuate the lie that electric cars are zero emission. They aren’t. While the cars themselves don’t emit pollution, the electricity that powers them does. So increasing demand for electricity means more pollution from the power plants — many of which run on coal — that fuel these “zero emission” vehicles.

Even when it comes to fighting climate change, electric cars aren’t necessarily better than their gas-powered brethren.

A report from the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute calculated the CO2 emissions from plug-in electrics based on the energy sources used to generate electricity, and then translated that into a miles-per-gallon equivalent.

They found that an electric car recharged by a coal-fired plant produces as much CO2 as a gasoline-powered car that gets 29 miles per gallon. A plug-in recharged by a natural gas-powered plant is like driving a car that gets 58 miles per gallon. Given the energy mix in the U.S., the average plug-in produces as much CO2 as a conventional car that gets 55.4 miles per gallon.

In other words, not zero emissions.