Category Archives: Energy

EIA’s portal compares energy sector in 50 states

If you’ve ever been curious about energy facts in your state—such as which sector consumes the most energy, or how your state’s electricity prices compare to the rest of the country—the State Portal hosted by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) is a convenient, user-friendly resource.

EIA’s portal compares energy in the 50 states from EcoWest on Vimeo.

In a previous EcoWest post, we highlighted another useful data visualization tool, Saxum’s United States of Energy map, which illustrates energy production and known fuel deposits around the country. The EIA web portal offers an interactive tool with state-level energy data and detailed profiles for each state. It also aggregates data on state rankings of energy consumption, production, and prices across sectors and fuel types. Users can create customized energy infrastructure maps, visualize state-level data by generating graphics and charts, and analyze key energy statistics for each state.

In this post, we’ll use the state of Montana as an example to highlight the range of information that the EIA portal provides. From the main landing page, you can select Montana to display the state’s profile overview. Under the “Layers/Legend” menu item, you can choose from over 30 infrastructure layers, including coal plants, hydroelectric plants, natural gas pipelines, transmission lines, and LNG export terminals.

Below are five outputs from the portal that we found especially useful.

1)     State energy rankings

For easy reference, the portal provides a chart on the state profile page to indicate how that state ranks against all other U.S. states in terms of energy consumption, production, pricing, expenditures, and emissions. As you can see from the screenshot below, Montana is the country’s eighth largest producer of coal. The state emits a relatively low level of carbon dioxide, mostly owing to its sparse population.

State Energy Profile: Montana

2)     Energy production by source

As shown in chart below, coal dominates energy production in Montana. The state is home to the country’s largest estimated recoverable coal reserves. Roughly one-quarter of the coal mined in Montana is consumed in-state for electric power; two-fifths is distributed domestically to more than 15 states; and one-third is exported, mainly to Asia.

Montana: Energy Production

3)    Energy consumption by sector

You can also view the breakdown of energy consumption by sector for each state. In Montana, the transportation and industrial sectors account for roughly three-fifths of energy use. At the national level, the industrial and transportation sectors are also the leading energy users.

Montana: Consumption by Sector

4)    State energy prices compared to U.S. average

It’s also interesting to compare how energy prices in your state stack up against other states. In Montana, energy prices are about 25 percent lower than the national average. These low prices are primarily a result of a stable supply of energy produced in-state and a relatively low demand from the state’s comparatively small population.

Montana: Energy Prices

5)    Renewable energy potential

Montana is well-situated, geographically speaking, for renewable energy production. The state has significant hydroelectric potential from rivers flowing out of the Rocky Mountains. And across its wide plains, the state has the third highest commercial wind potential in the country.

On the EIA state portal, you can map renewable energy potential by source across the country. As this map shows, Montana has significant geothermal potential, particularly in the state’s mountainous southwest corner. Currently, geothermal resources are largely untapped as an electricity source in Montana, a fact which many attribute to the state’s low fossil fuel energy prices, small population, and lack of transmission infrastructure in remote locations.

Geothermal Potential

Given its frequency of updates and user-friendly format, the EIA portal is a handy resource for academics, decision-makers, and residents who are keen to learn more about their state’s energy portfolio. Take a tour of the portal and let us know what you learn about your state.

Data sources

EIA’s state energy portal provides state-level energy data and infrastructure overlays for all 50 U.S. states.


Download Slides: State Energy PortalDownload Slides: State Energy Portal (2.96 MB pptx)
Download Notes: State Energy PortalDownload Notes: State Energy Portal (924.13 kB pdf)

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How energy is produced in the American West, the nation’s “energy breadbasket”

The Western Governors’ Association (WGA) calls the West the nation’s “energy breadbasket,” owing to the region’s vast and diverse energy resources. In its most recent report, “The State of Energy in the West,” the WGA provides a comprehensive survey of conventional and renewable energy as part of its year-long focus on energy.

In a previous post, we explored how energy consumption, spending, and prices compare in Western states and across the country. In this post, we shift our focus to the supply side to understand how energy is produced in the West. (Also see our post on the “United States of Energy,” a map that illustrates where the nation’s energy resources are located.)

Energy breadbasket of the U.S.

The West, which the WGA defines as a 19-state region extending as far east as Texas and South Dakota, plays a key role in meeting the country’s energy demands. The WGA dubbed the West the nation’s energy breadbasket for several reasons:

  • The West delivers nearly two-thirds of the nation’s wind energy.
  • California is the national leader in solar energy production, its output nearly triple that of the next highest-producing state (Arizona). Solar energy potential in the Southwest also ranks among the highest in the world.
  • Nearly all of the country’s geothermal resources are located in the West, home to 99.5% of installed national capacity in 2011.
  • In recent years, the West has accounted for close to 70% of the country’s natural gas and petroleum production.
  • Coal production in the West contributes 60% of the national total.

Below is a screenshot (click to enlarge) from our dashboard illustrating energy production in the West, based on 2012 figures.
Non-renewable energy production in the West
Renewable energy production in the West

Energy and the economy

Fossil fuels currently make up the largest share of state-level employment in the West’s energy sector. In 2009, the oil and gas industry accounted for more than 5% of total employment in Alaska, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, and Wyoming. The coal industry in Wyoming is responsible for 14.2% of the state’s GDP and 8% of its work force in 2010. The state’s total coal output exceeds Russia’s.
Oil and gas as a share of employment, by state
Besides generating jobs, the fossil fuel industry also contributes to the region’s economy through severance taxes, which are applied to the extraction of some non-renewable resources. Five states in the West–Alaska, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, and Wyoming–have a severance tax endowment, which provides a revenue stream in perpetuity. Among all state-level severance taxes collected across the nation in 2011, roughly 85 % were in the West.

The growing renewable energy industry is also spurring job growth in the region. The wind industry alone has added 30,000 jobs throughout the West and generated over $290 million in property tax revenues.

Energy vision for the West

The West’s abundant energy resources play a pivotal role in both the regional and national economy, but energy development also carries environmental costs. Researchers have cautioned that energy sprawl can threaten the habitats of iconic western species, such as the sage grouse and pronghorn. The graphic below, from our land deck, shows the intersection of desert tortoise critical habitat and solar power potential.
Solar energy potential and desert tortoise habitat
As part of its 10-Year Energy Vision, the WGA is working to achieve a balance between responsible energy development and wildlife conservation by engaging in more proactive planning with various stakeholders.

The WGA’s State of the Energy report provides an accessible primer on energy resources in the West, in addition to reviewing topics such as energy efficiency, alternative vehicles/fuels, electricity transmission, and technology development in the sector. Given that the West provides a majority of the nation’s energy supply, the report should be useful for policymakers and residents living in and outside the West.

Data sources

The Western Governors’ Association, a non-partisan organization of 22 U.S. governors, represents 19 U.S. states and 3 U.S. territories. EcoWest typically defines the region as the 11 contiguous Western states, but “The State of Energy in the West” takes a broader view.


Download Slides: State of Energy in the WestDownload Slides: State of Energy in the West (3.41 MB pptx)
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EcoWest’s mission is to analyze, visualize, and share data on environmental trends in the North American West. Please subscribe to our RSS feed, opt-in for email updates, follow us on Twitter, or like us on Facebook.

State energy dashboard compares use, prices, and spending

The 50 states pursue different paths to supply energy to their residents, with some heavily reliant on coal, others dependent on hydropower dams, and many tapping a broad portfolio of sources. I described this diversity of approaches in previous posts on energy flow diagrams and a map of the “United States of Energy.”

In this post, I take a closer look at how U.S. states compare in their energy consumption, spending, and prices. Using data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Annual Energy Review, I created a dashboard to visualize the patterns, and I put together an accompanying slide deck that you can download at the bottom of this post.

Per capita energy consumption

The map below (click to enlarge) illustrates per capita energy consumption in 2010. Four states—Alaska, Wyoming, North Dakota, and Louisiana—stick out. This group of states shares two things in common. First, all have relatively low populations, so the denominator in the per capita calculation is small. Second, all four states are major energy producers. Because it generally takes a lot of energy to extract, produce, and distribute fossil energy sources, these states also rank high on consumption.

Per capita energy consumption by state (2010)

Energy use, prices, and spending

The chart below adds two more dimensions: prices and per capita spending. The bars are shaded green according to the total energy consumption in the state. I’ve sorted the states alphabetically, but on the dashboard you can order them by any of these variables.
Energy use, prices and spending by state (2010)

Prices versus consumption

I was curious whether there was any relationship between energy consumption and prices. Economics 101 suggests higher prices could mean lower consumption. The scatter plot below shows that there is, in fact, an inverse relationship between energy prices and use. I’ve sized the circles according to the total energy consumed in the state and colored them according to per capita energy expenditures.

EcoWest State Energy Dashboard

The spread in energy consumption and prices across the 50 states is very wide. Energy prices in Hawaii and some Northeast states are double, or nearly so, the costs in Louisiana and North Dakota. Per capita consumption in New York and California is less than one-fourth the use in Alaska and Wyoming.

Once again, the four energy-producing states are outliers. Leaving aside Alaska, where prices for many commodities are high, these states have the lowest energy prices. I repeated the analysis by excluding the four states and the R2 value increased from 0.465 to 0.566, indicating a stronger correlation between price and consumption.

But correlation is not causation! Other factors, such as the local climate and travel patterns in a state, may be more important variables. Several of the states with the most expensive energy prices and lowest energy consumption are in the Northeast (e.g., Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York). Prices tend to be higher in this urbanized region, which has a large population, extensive mass transit, and fewer vehicle-miles traveled. In other words, the high cost of gasoline in Manhattan is probably not the main reason why its residents drive less.

In a future post, I’ll analyze state-level data on carbon dioxide emissions.

Data sources

The energy dashboard is based on data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Annual Energy Review, specifically this table.


Download Slides: State Energy DashboardDownload Slides: State Energy Dashboard (1.85 MB pptx)

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EcoWest’s mission is to analyze, visualize, and share data on environmental trends in the North American West. Please subscribe to our RSS feed, opt-in for email updates, follow us on Twitter, or like us on Facebook.