Texas vs. California

The two states are ranked #1 and #2 in population. Texas has an area of 269,000 square miles and a population density of 98 people per square mile while California has an area of 163,000 square miles and a population density of 242 per square mile.

Is population density a sufficient explanation for the differing rates of energy consumption? Texas consumed 456 mbtus per person in 2009, compared to 217 mbtus per person in California.

I don’t know the answer. Any ideas from commenters? Los Angeles is the second largest metropolitan statistical area (MSA) in the country, with almost 13 million people, but Dallas/Ft.Worth/ Arlington is 4th and Houston 6th, and taken together they equal Los Angeles.

I really don’t know and I really would like to know. Why does Texas use twice as much energy per person as California?

California uses more gas for transportation than Texas (17 billion gallons vs. 12 billion). The geography and climate have similar extremes in terms of deserts and temperatures. The average square footage of homes in Texas was 2,168 sq ft in 2005, 500 more than the 1,607 in California. However, the average annual energy consumption per square foot was higher in California (41.7 thousand BTUs) than  in Texas (37.6). California has 6.88 million single family detached homes, compared to Texas’ total of 5.17 million.

California’s median household income in 2010 was $58,931 compared to Texas’ median HHI of $48,259.

Help me out here, please. If population density is the single most important factor, that’s pretty important information. And yet I don’t recall reading much about population density and its effects on energy consumption.

(I should note that New York City consumes 1% of the country’s energy. However it has 3% of the country’s population….)

10 responses to “Texas vs. California

  1. A lot of energy demand is associated with the type of home one resides in and what type of choices one has in terms of energy as well- gas, electricity. A recent paper talks a bit about what the determinants are for demand-“Residential Energy Use and Conservation: Economics and Demographics” http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?e=001rKXT8oaBlu4XKdE5dyH4qSAh9u7fBMViRlaRHxBQt-Z8YXRG0GJY1N-7CWvjxJhu41ZSkDjlTE2yv_VzjmLnDL8_f3FEHRVsoz24PV7BzeOIwmnGcOX9kd-pnoJupgFH0Yk7_yiES2I=

    Texas’s has a much different climate on average then CA- hence different needs. I am a bit more familiar with the variation (SD) in energy usage in CA then I am for Texas. In the Bay Area one doesn’t need much energy to make your habitat comfortable- little heat or cooling is needed. This is not the case in the central valley of CA- which is the closest climate that matches the Average climate in Texas. The primary difference between the two locations being the humidity levels that the folks in Texas have to manage to go along with their high temperature.

    If you take a look at CA’s AVERAGE energy usage for transportation fuels compared to TEXAS the differences between the states is greatly reduced.

    • Hi Kakatoa, I wondered about energy extremes–the mid-western states as a whole seem to use more energy per person and I wonder if having to run both an air conditioner in summer and a heater in winter might explain part of this. But it gets both hot and cold in New York… and they have the lowest energy use per person…

      • Afternoon Thomas;

        It’s been a few years since I have spent time in NYC (or on Long Island)- 2002 to be exact. My uncle lived in NYC a few years back in a 4 room flat somewhere on the west side of Manhattan. My eccentric writer uncle moved between NYC, SF, Ireland, Mexico, Aptos CA and Sonoma CA. He even lived with my wife and I for a few weeks (San Jose) while transitioning between locals (to find his creative muse). As to you question which I interpret as why is the reported energy usage so much lower in NY which gets hot and cold then say Cleveland or Detroit. My architect brother, has told me that when he designs/specifies HVAC and electrical load requirements it is dependent on a few details. He doesn’t use average data he gets some details as to the heating and cooling days (per month) at the exact external environment. I should of listened better to my brother, but next he has to get the construction details of the exact building as the requirements are based on this too. My take away from Jim, was that if you want to compare place A to place B you need to get specific.

        The only internal electrical load requirement that I remember from Jim that might make a difference when comparing say my uncles flat in NYC to one in Detroit had to do with appliances and if the heat and AC was central to the building (separate billing meter with the energy usage bill going to the landlord) or not.

        Sorry about not being able to answer your question more directly

  2. I would also wonder about the extremes, but would also consider the difference in deserts. Is there any data on the difference between say San Antonio and Galveston or Corpus Christi? Dry heat, normal for the west side of Texas and most of California, is very different than the muggies of the gulf coast. would be great to see some data by county in Texas and see if that makes a difference.

  3. Texas has an enormous amount of energy-intensive industry. Most energy consumption is commercial, not residential/personal (although I agree with previous commenters that climate makes a big difference in the residential portion). So the per-capita numbers are skewed by the industrial consumption.

  4. For current consumption data in CA I have found the CEC website (and staff) to be very helpful- http://ecdms.energy.ca.gov/

    An article by Cynthia Mitchcell, et al entitled “Stabilizing CA Demand- The real reasons behind the state’s energy savings” http://www.fortnightly.com/exclusive.cfm?o_id=159 is an enlightening review of the factors that influenced the stable kw/capita usage in CA over the years. The costs of electrical energy is noted as being one of the biggest drivers…….

  5. Duncan MacKenzie

    I’ll bet people in the suburbs of NYC don’t have particularly low energy usage.
    NYC is kind of an extreme – people living on top of each other (literally) means buildings with relatively small surface area compared to volume. That means far far lower heating and cooling costs.
    Also, a car is a liability in much of NYC – even rich people often find it easier to use mass transit or walk.

    My memories of LA are of separate homes or low-rise apartment buildings and single story offices. Low rise buildings are more energy efficient than ranches, I would think, but not competitive with towers.

    I would look at a few things in comparing California and Texas:
    1. Energy cost. How has energy usage in CA and TX diverged since California’s regulation drove up energy prices?
    2. Industrial use. CA has driven energy-intensive industry out; TX still has quite a bit IIRC. Residential, office, and transportation energy use might be closer.
    3. Climate. The major population centers in CA require little heating or A/C. Houston requires lots of both (and is a horrible place to visit in July).

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