November 14, 2008

Ranking the States on Energy Efficiency

After the American Century

Energy is a central part of the announced Obama program, so it is useful to know which states (and their representatives in Congress) are most disposed to support him. A new report from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy rates all 50 states, not in terms of their energy use per capita, but in terms of their utility regulations, transportation legislation, building codes and other laws that require or at least encourage better energy practices. The most conscientious states turn out to be those that Obama won, led by California and Oregon, and including New York, New Jersey, the New England States, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. These are quintessential "blue states" in other words, and they all receive scores of at least 25 out of a possible 50, California being the highest with 40.5.

And those at the bottom? All are "red states" with the worst score going to Dick Cheney's Wyoming, a perfectly dreaful 0. But there are remarkably low scores also for Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and so on. To make the symmetry rather complete, swing states are in the middle, with higher scores if they are in the North and lower if they are further south. Thus Missouri had an anemic score of only 4, and was 45th in the nation. The most northern swing state, New Hampshire, had the highest score among them, with 16.5, and came in 18th. Another northern swing state, Ohio, scored scored 16 and came in 19th.

These are not merely statistics. The states spent just under $3 billion on energy efficiency in 2007, almost four times what George Bush budgeted for it. In short, the states that supported Obama most strongly are also those most prepared to take advantage of any new energy programs.

There is one interesting exception to these generalizations, the State of Michigan. It ranks just 38th overall, in contrast to its more environmentally conscientious neighbors in the northern tier of the US. Center of the American car industry, Michigan seems wedded to energy profligracy.