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Gasoline Use Per Capita
Jamais Cascio, 10 Aug 05

Which US state consumes the most gasoline per capita? Which consumes the least? Answers based on conventional wisdom and stereotypes might put California (home of the "car culture") close to the top, and some place fairly small and less prone to massive suburban sprawl, like Iowa, close to the bottom. Of course, I wouldn't be offering up those examples of "conventional wisdom and stereotypes" if they were at all right: California, it turns out, ranks #44 out of 51 in per capita gasoline use, at 413.8 gallons so far in 2005 (the District of Columbia has used the least per person, at 214.4 gallons); Iowa, conversely, ranks #8 at 553.9 gallons per person (Oklahoma is #1 at 625.8 gallons). As a whole, the average American has consumed 470.6 gallons of gasoline so far in 2005.

This is according to the statistics compiled by the California Energy Commission based on US Department of Energy and US Bureau of the Census data.

The state-by-state listing just begs for further analysis: the corresponding per capita rates of hybrid ownership and light truck/SUV ownership; average population density; portion of the populace living in "high density" environments; gasoline prices; telecommuting rates; availability of public transit; even "red" vs. "blue." Anyone up for a bit of number crunching?

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Woohoo! You go DC, be first at something! Better yet, let us all be car free DC!

Posted by: wayan on 10 Aug 05

I just posted a link at Organic Matter and put together an initial table with some of the more easy-to-find bits of the data you mentioned (get it here). There's a bunch more data that you mentioned that would be interesting, but I couldn't find it very easily, so I went with the simple stuff. I also haven't taken the time to run any numbers since I don't have a stats package on hand (and won't for several days).

Request: if anyone adds data to the spreadsheet email me at chris AT organicmatter DOT net and attach the updated spreadsheet so I can upload the newer version.

Posted by: chris@organicmatter on 11 Aug 05

I'd say the biggest factor is the percent of population living in urban areas. Also, a state's ranking will be affected if it has a small population and a relatively high percentage of gas is sold to out-of-staters as they travel through. D.C. just doesn't have many gas stations per capita; many cities are similar.

Posted by: Laurence Aurbach on 11 Aug 05

California also has some of (if not the) highest gasoline prices in the nation. OK has some of the lowest. Just speculation, since I haven't actually looked at the numbers... but I bet there's a direct correlation between Per Capita usage and gas price.

Posted by: Jesse on 11 Aug 05

As someone who was in ok a long while back the main issue with ok is going to the store can be a 90 min drive;/

Posted by: wintermane on 11 Aug 05

Reader Drew Baglino has taken the time to add in data for the percentage of a state's population that lives in urban areas. In addition, I made some quick tables comparing gasoline use per capita to the three figures in the spreadsheet (average gas price, average population density, and percent population in urban areas) and added trendlines with R2 values. None of these is particularly compelling, but have a look for yourself: the new spreadsheet is here.

Posted by: chris@organicmatter on 12 Aug 05



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