Internal Variability In U.S. Energy Consumption

I’ve posted on this before. People spend a lot of time looking at the developing world and comparing their energy consumption with the OECD. I’m one of them. But it is enlightening to look at the differences within a country. Fortunately, the U.S. Department of Energy publishes statistics at the state level.


Although Canada and Iceland consume prodigious amounts of energy per person, they don’t hold a candle to Wyoming, which has a per capita energy consumption of 949 million btus annually.It’s a darn good thing they don’t have many capitas. They are joined in their profligacy by Alaska (873 mbtus), Louisiana (849 mbtus) and North Dakota (788 mbtus). Hmm. I wonder what they all have in common? Canada, another energy producing region, consumes at the 426 mbtu level.

At the other end of the scale are Rhode Island (173 mbtus), New York (179 mbtus) and California (201 mbtus). What they have in common is they’re rich. Green, green Germany clocks in at about 250 mbtu and the goal should actually be the Dutch at about 161 mbtus.

If you’re concerned about lowering energy consumption, asking yourself how we go about making Wyoming more like Rhode Island, my personal answer is don’t bother. Wyoming is an energy producing region with a small population. So are the other high burners.

What we should be looking at is how to draw down the median. Right now the 25th state is Illinois at 300 mbtus, pretty close to the U.S. average. Our goal should be to make Illinois like New York, or number 28 state Delaware like Rhode Island. We should be looking at how Texas (461 mbtus) can be like California.

I’m one of those less concerned with how much energy is consumed than I am about what is burned to provide that fuel. California for me gets extra brownie points (named after their governor) because they are the number 2 state in renewable energy (after hydro-happy Washington). That darn Delaware not only uses a lot of energy per person, it is last in renewables. Washington produced 75,905 gigawatt hours of renewable electricity in 2010, compared to Delaware’s 138. That’s right, three digits. Grow some mountains! Cry me a river!

We’ll give Illinois a bit of a break because it leads the country in nuclear power, producing more than 96,000 gigawatt hours. 19 states tie for last with zero, zip.

If I were an energy czar I would use this data to create benchmarks, telling states in the lower tier of each category to get up to at least average. I would use nudges, rewards, penalties and maybe even game shows.

That should be the point of breaking these numbers down this way.

2 responses to “Internal Variability In U.S. Energy Consumption

  1. I assume your goal is energy efficiency? In that case a diktat from the center doesn’t seem like an optimized solution. The best option seems to be a CO2 and methane emissions tax, which can be tied to the global average temperature measured using satellites (I believe this was proposed to the UK government). Regulations cap’n be used to reduce soot emissions.

    Rather than force Texas be like California (which goes over like a lead balloon), I wonder if a better idea may not be to encourage denser urban areas, reduce sprawl, induce people to live in smaller but nicer residences, introduce more green spaces, and put in better public transport? If your window is 2075 that’s easily accomplished.

    • Hi Fernando, thanks. My overall goal is to reduce global usage of coal. As for the U.S., I have no problem with natural gas or nuclear, using gas a bridge fuel while we transition to nuke.

      I don’t want to pass any laws saying Texas has to be like California. I prefer the Nudge approach, using incentives (both positive and negative) and letting Texas make its own choices.

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