The New Orleans skyline. (AP Photo/Sandy Colton)
Anyone who thinks Louisiana is a sleepy state hasn’t visited lately. With the fracking boom unlocking a gusher of natural gas, multinationals have been spending tens of billions of dollars to construct manufacturing plants on the Gulf Coast powered by all that cheap energy to churn out plastics and chemicals. And that’s made Louisiana the biggest energy consumer per capita in the U.S.
Louisiana’s energy burn worked out to 912 million British thermal units per person in 2015, the most recent year for which data is available from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Residential electricity use is high — three-fifths of all Louisiana households use electricity for home heating and air conditioning is ubiquitous to combat the state’s famed heat – but it’s factories that are the big power hogs in the state. About three-quarters of the state’s total energy consumption in 2015 was industrial – in fact Louisiana accounted for 9.4% of total U.S. industrial power use that year, way out of proportion to its 1.4% share of the U.S. population. Despite its low population, the state still ranked third in the nation in overall energy consumption.
The biggest? Naturally Texas, where residents consumed a whopping 13 quadrillion BTUs in 2015. On a per capita basis, the state only ranks sixth.
On a per capita basis Louisiana is followed by four other lightly populated states: Wyoming, Alaska, North Dakota and Iowa.
High industrial sector energy consumption also is a big factor in those states; according to EIA, in each of the top five states, industry accounts for more than 50% of all power consumption, with energy intensive fossil fuel production a big contributor. Alaska and North Dakota are big oil and gas states, while Wyoming is the nation’s leading coal producer.
Weather and geography is also a big factor in energy consumption. In Wyoming, Alaska and North Dakota, cold winters ensure high heating demand, while big empty stretches mean residents burn a lot of gasoline to get around.
On the other end of the spectrum, states like New York, Rhode Island, California, Hawaii and Florida consume the least energy per capita.
New York’s large population makes it rank as one of the highest consuming states in the nation, but its energy intensity and per capita consumption are remarkably low. “The state’s energy efficiency results in part from the New York City metropolitan region’s widely used mass transportation systems,” the EIA explains. “More than half of New York City workers use public transit, and more than one-fourth of state residents do, which is five times the U.S. average.”
Similarly, California is the most populous state in the union and supports energy intensive industries, but has one the lowest per capita total energy consumption levels in the country. The state’s intensive efforts to promote energy efficiency have paid off but the state also has its mild climate to thank for its low consumption levels. More than two-fifths of state households do not have or do not use air conditioning, making residential energy use per person in California lower than every other state except Hawaii.
Read on to find out where your state lands on the list.