Special Report

10 States Draining the Country's Energy

Smoking himney
Source: Thinkstock
 According to data released earlier this year, the United States consumes approximately 97 quadrillion British Thermal Units (Btu) annually, behind only China in total use and equal to nearly one fifth of the world’s total consumption.

This value is still more staggering when it becomes clear that even relative to the size of our population, the country burns through more electricity and fuel than all but a handful of nations. With close to a fifth of the world’s total energy consumption, the U.S. accounts for less than 5% of the world’s population. Regional differences also mean that some parts of the country are an even bigger drain on the nation’s energy supply. While the U.S. consumes 306.9 million Btu per capita, Wyoming consumes more than 900 million Btu each year per person.

Click here to see the 10 states draining the country’s energy

While we often think of the nation’s homes and businesses as the biggest draw on the country’s electricity and fuel, that usage is dwarfed by manufacturing and other industrial uses. Residential use accounts for slightly more than 21% of total U.S. energy consumption, compared to nearly one third of total energy pulled for industrial purposes.

A major part of the U.S. industrial energy use is from energy-producing states. In an email to 24/7 Wall St., U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) State Energy Profiles expert Allen McFarland explained that “It tends to take a lot of energy to produce energy.” Operating mines and transporting and processing raw materials requires a great deal of fuel and electricity. The 10 states consuming the most energy accounted for 46.6% of the country’s entire energy production.

This also explains why the states that use more energy are the states that produce the most energy. Wyoming, the biggest per capita energy user of any state, is also the biggest coal-mining state in the U.S. Wyoming’s per capita energy use is just under 200 Btu, which is more than New York state uses per person for industrial, residential, commercial, and transportation purposes combined.

Energy prices are exceedingly low in the states consuming the most energy. All but one of the 10 states with the highest energy use per capita are also among the 15 with the lowest prices per Btu. Prices are likely low in these states, explained McFarland, because they are rich with natural energy-producing materials like coal, petroleum, and natural gas. Importing these materials to generate electricity, heat homes and businesses, and fuel vehicles can be expensive, and these states have the luxury of using the materials extracted locally, which drives down costs.

One possible explanation for this relationship may be that state residents and businesses are taking advantage of cheaper energy. “Cheaper energy may have some influence on consumption.” McFarland explained, although he added that the relationship was unclear, and was more apparent on the side of states that use less energy. “From what I can tell… more expensive energy tends to have a bigger impact on behavior. States like California and Hawaii have promoted energy conservation in response to high prices.”

One additional factor that could be driving up use in these states, Added McFarland, is climate. While the energy requirements for space heating has declined in recent years due to improvements in technology, it still accounts for more than 40% of total energy consumption in the country.

Not surprisingly, eight of the 10 states with the highest energy are in cold-weather climates, including Alaska and North Dakota. “Weather … has a major impact on residential sector consumption.” Added McFarland. Cold temperatures tend to have a bigger impact than warm ones. It takes more energy to heat a house from 30 degrees Farenheit to 70 degrees Farenheit than to cool it from 90 degrees.”

To determine the 10 states consuming the most energy per capita, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed energy end-use consumption data for 2013 from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. According to the EIA: “U.S. energy consumption per capita is the ratio of total energy consumed and total U.S. population. It is not an average of energy consumed directly per person. In addition to energy resources consumed directly by households and commercial businesses, total energy includes energy consumed in industrial processes, for transportation, and to generate electric power.” In addition to energy consumption, we reviewed electricity generation by source for 2013, also from the EIA. All data are for the most recent available year.

These are the states consuming the most energy.

10. Oklahoma
> Energy consumption per capita:
421 million Btu
> Total energy consumption: 1,623 trillion Btu (22nd highest)
> Total price per million Btu: $19.82 (12th lowest)
> Energy production as pct. of U.S. total: 4.0% (5th highest)

Only nine other states consume more energy per capita than Oklahoma. Oklahoma’s industrial sector draws roughly 36% of the total energy used in the state, more than any other sector, slightly less than double the residential consumption share. Natural gas is used to generate more than 683 trillion Btu of the energy consumed in the state in 2014, more than double the 335.9 Btu that came from coal in Oklahoma.

While Oklahoma ranks high in energy consumption, it also generates a considerable amount of energy through the harvesting of natural resources as well as electricity generation. Oklahoma produces 4% of total energy generated in the country, the fifth highest share of any state. Oklahoma’s expansive open plains have a high potential of generating electricity through wind power. Only three states generate more electricity from wind mills than Oklahoma.

ALSO READ: The Most Dangerous Cities in America

9. Indiana
> Energy consumption per capita:
441 million Btu
> Total energy consumption: 2,900 trillion Btu (9th highest)
> Total price per million Btu: $17.79 (3rd lowest)
> Energy production as pct. of U.S. total: 1.4% (17th highest)

Only two other states in the nation have cheaper energy prices than Indiana. As a result, ranking ninth in energy consumption per capita in the nation, it spends only the 16th most on it per person. Like most states with high energy consumption, nearly half of Indiana’s energy — compared to about one-third nationwide — is used in its industrial sector. This is largely due to its energy-intensive chemical, petroleum, transportation equipment, and steelmaking industries.

Indiana mostly runs on coal. Almost 85% of electricity generated in the state comes from coal, the fourth highest such rate in the country. Indiana nearly leads the country in coal consumption — second only to Texas — and uses more of the natural resource in its industrial sector than any other state.

8. South Dakota
> Energy consumption per capita:
462 million Btu
> Total energy consumption: 390 trillion Btu (6th lowest)
> Total price per million Btu: $20.01 (15th lowest)
> Energy production as pct. of U.S. total: 0.3% (13th lowest)

While total energy consumption in South Dakota is among the lowest in the nation, per capita consumption in the Midwestern state is the eighth highest in the U.S. Commercial use, including heating and powering office buildings and storefronts, accounts for more energy consumption per capita in South Dakota than in all but three other states.

While it is a large consumer of energy, South Dakota is also notable for its high renewable energy production. More than one-quarter of electricity produced in the state is wind-power generated, a higher share than in every other state except for Iowa. Additionally, nearly 48% of electricity produced in the state is generated by water turbines, the fourth highest rate of hydroelectricity production in the country.

7. Nebraska
> Energy consumption per capita:
466 million Btu
> Total energy consumption: 872 trillion Btu (18th lowest)
> Total price per million Btu: $19.34 (9th lowest)
> Energy production as pct. of U.S. total: 0.5% (18th lowest)

More than a third of Nebraska’s consumed energy comes from coal sources, compared to 18.6% of coal-generated energy consumed nationwide. The state has no natural coal deposits of its own, so it imports the the natural resource mostly from Wyoming, to primarily be used in state coal-burning electricity plants. The state consumes among the most energy per capita in every major category — residential, industrial, commercial, and transportation.

In particular, residential use is much higher than across the nation. Nebraska residences use 87.6 million Btu annually per person, compared to the 66.9 million Btu per person used by residences nationwide. The state’s industrial sector is by far the biggest energy draw, using nearly 200 million Btu per state resident every year. This is largely due to Nebraska’s massive food processing sector.

ALSO READ: The Best Economies in the World

6. Texas
> Energy consumption per capita:
488 million Btu
> Total energy consumption: 12,944 trillion Btu (the highest)
> Total price per million Btu: $18.90 (8th lowest)
> Energy production as pct. of U.S. total: 19.1% (the highest)

Texas is the nation’s largest consumer and producer of energy. The state, which trails only Alaska in landmass and only California in population size, consumes roughly 13 quadrillion Btu annually, or roughly 13.5% of the nation’s energy use. Industrial consumption accounts for the bulk of the state’s energy draw, and close to half of energy consumed is petroleum-generated. More than 6 quadrillion Btu of energy consumed in the state comes from petroleum, helping make the state the largest petroleum consumer in the nation.

Texas’s 27 petroleum refineries help the state produce 19.1% of the nation’s energy, the most of any other state. The state is home to nearly one-third of the U.S. total crude oil reserves.

5. Iowa
> Energy consumption per capita:
490 million Btu
> Total energy consumption: 1,517 trillion Btu (24th highest)
> Total price per million Btu: $17.79 (3rd lowest)
> Energy production as pct. of U.S. total: 0.9% (24th highest)

A number of the states consuming the most energy are also among the nation’s largest energy producers, but that is not always the case. Iowa used roughly 490 million Btu annually per person — the fifth highest consumption rate nationwide — but the state’s energy sector produces less than 1% of the nation’s energy.

At one time, there were more than 400 coal mines in the southern half of Iowa, according to the EIA, but the state’s coal production industry is no longer active, and the state now imports the majority of its coal from Wyoming. Iowa’s five largest power plants are coal-fired. While coal dominates energy generated, the state leads the nation in electricity generated from wind power, which accounts for 28.5% of the state’s electricity production. By contrast, just 4.4% of electricity generated nationwide comes from wind. One potential reason for the state’s greater energy use is the low cost of energy in the state. Energy costs $17.79 per Btu in the state, tied with Indiana for third-cheapest in the country.

ALSO READ: Cities With Shrinking Economies

4. North Dakota
> Energy consumption per capita:
813 million Btu
> Total energy consumption: 589 trillion Btu (11th lowest)
> Total price per million Btu: $18.53 (6th lowest)
> Energy production as pct. of U.S. total: 3.2% (8th highest)

North Dakota trails only three other states in energy consumption per capita, consuming 813 million Btu of energy on average for each state resident annually. Energy consumption also costs the average state resident $10,540, the highest per capita energy expenditure nationwide. While North Dakota’s economy has shed jobs each month since the end of March, the state is still profiting from an oil boom. As a result of discoveries primarily in the Bakken Shale, oil production in the state increased by a factor of 10 over the decade through 2013. Despite its oil and natural gas operations, more than three-quarters of electricity generated in North Dakota comes from burning coal, the seventh highest share compared to other states. The western part of the state is home to the largest known source of lignite coal in the world.

3. Alaska
> Energy consumption per capita:
826 million Btu
> Total energy consumption: 609 trillion Btu (12th lowest)
> Total price per million Btu: $24.92 (10th highest)
> Energy production as pct. of U.S. total: 1.9% (13th highest)

Alaska is one of the biggest consumers of energy per capita in the United States. Largely because of the state’s size and low population density, no state consumes more energy per capita for transportation than Alaska, which also ranks third in energy consumption per capita for commercial and industrial purposes. Household energy consumption in Alaska, however, is relatively modest. Residential energy consumption per capita is 66.3 million Btu annually, slightly less than the corresponding national figure of 66.9 million Btu per year.

Alaska is both a major producer and consumer of energy generated from natural gas. Nearly 50% of electricity generated in the state comes from natural gas, and nearly 55% of its total electricity production comes from natural gas, a larger contribution to production than in any other state.

2. Louisiana
> Energy consumption per capita:
828 million Btu
> Total energy consumption: 3,835 trillion Btu (5th highest)
> Total price per million Btu: $15.88 (the lowest)
> Energy production as pct. of U.S. total: 4.0% (5th highest)

Louisiana consumes the fifth most amount of energy in the nation, and the second most when adjusted for population. This is largely due to its industrial sector, which uses nearly 67% of all energy consumed in the state — the highest share in the country. Louisiana’s industrial sector is dominated by the energy-intensive chemical, petroleum, and natural gas industries. Most states with high industrial energy consumption have lower energy prices, and nowhere in the country is energy cheaper than in Louisiana.

Louisiana runs mostly on natural gas and petroleum. Only two other states, California and Texas, consume more energy generated from natural gas or petroleum than Louisiana. At 54.0%, more than half of the state’s electricity is generated from natural gas — nearly twice the rate nationwide. Louisiana is also one of the top producers of natural gas in the country. Louisiana also produces 4% of the nation’s energy, the fifth largest contribution of any state.

ALSO READ: Cities Spending The Most Per Pupil

1. Wyoming
> Energy consumption per capita:
918 million Btu
> Total energy consumption: 536 trillion Btu (10th lowest)
> Total price per million Btu: $18.39 (4th lowest)
> Energy production as pct. of U.S. total: 11.3% (2nd highest)

Wyoming is the largest coal-producing state in the country, accounting for roughly two-fifths of all coal mined in the United States each year. States such as Wyoming do not need to import energy resources from other states to generate electricity. Not surprisingly, 87.7% of the state’s electricity generation comes from coal. Because the state does not need to import fuel, the costs of energy are extremely low in the state. Prices per Btu of energy are the fourth-lowest in the country. However, because the state uses so much energy overall — 918 million Btu per capita, or roughly three times the national per capita rate of consumption — total energy expenditure in Wyoming is third highest in the country, at $9,358 per capita.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us?
Contact the 24/7 Wall St. editorial team.