EIA: Lightly Populated Large States Use More Transportation Energy

Recent analysis of 2018 data by the Energy Information Administration geographically large states with small populations – such as Alaska, Wyoming, and North Dakota – used twice as much energy for transportation than the U.S. average on a per capita basis.

[Above photo by the Alaska DOT&PF.]

By contrast, states with higher population density, such as Rhode Island and New York, used less transportation energy per capita in 2018, the EIA said.

The agency noted in a statement that it estimates annual energy consumption by state, source, and sector using its own surveys and third-party data sources. The agency then converts that energy data – usually collected in gallons, cubic feet, and kilowatt-hours – to common energy units (in this case British thermal units or Btus) for accurate energy source and sector comparisons.

Photo by the Wyoming DOT

In 2018, the energy consumption for transportation in the United States averaged 87 million Btus per person – with “transportation” including all energy used by automobiles, trains, aircraft, ships, and other vehicles whose primary purpose is to transport people or goods, or both, from one place to another.

Based on its State Energy Data System or SEDS, the EIA said Alaska – which has the smallest population density of any state – has ranked as the state with the highest level of per capita transportation energy consumption in every year since 1969. In 2018, Alaska consumed significantly more jet fuel per capita than any other state, at 135 million Btu, or about 1,002 gallons: almost 13 times the U.S. average of 80 gallons.

Meanwhile, Wyoming has the smallest population and the highest vehicle miles traveled per capita of any state. Wyoming and North Dakota also had the highest consumption of motor gasoline per capita, each averaging 66 million Btu, or about 552 gallons, in 2018.

Concurrently, North Dakota, a large natural gas-producing state, had the highest consumption of natural gas per capita in the transportation sector, which includes natural gas used for pipeline movements, with 29 million Btu, or about 27,000 cubic feet, in 2018.

Meanwhile, New York had the lowest per capita transportation energy consumption of any state in 2018 at 58 million Btu, with only Washington, D.C., coming in lower at 29 million Btu. This result is almost entirely attributable to New York’s low motor gasoline consumption per capita.

In 2018, New York and Washington, D.C., consumed 34 million Btu (284 gallons) and 20 million Btu (164 gallons) of motor gasoline per capita, respectively, compared with the U.S. average of 51 million Btu (422 gallons).

However, on an absolute basis – not per capita – the transportation sector in Texas has consumed the most energy of any state since 2013, when it surpassed California. In 2018, the EIA said 3.5 quadrillion Btu was consumed in Texas’s transportation sector, or about 12 percent of the nation’s total, and 3.2 quadrillion Btu (11 percent) was consumed in California.

About twice as much distillate fuel oil or diesel was consumed in Texas than in California, but more motor gasoline and jet fuel was consumed in California than in Texas or any other state.

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