Middle America Energy Boom States


At Inside Energy, we’re dedicated to making sense of what powers you.

We’re starting with the basics: How much energy do we produce, and how much do we use?

Our three focus states – Colorado, North Dakota, and Wyoming – house two percent of the U.S. population but account for 19 percent of domestic energy production:

  • Colorado was the seventh-largest energy producing state in 2011. Most of it’s production is in the form of natural gas. Renewables represented less than four percent of Colorado’s total energy production in 2011, but that may soon change. New state regulations require 30 percent of electric utility power to be generated from renewable sources by 2020.
  • North Dakota produces less than half the energy Colorado does, and ranks 13th nationwide. But it was the second-largest crude oil producing state in 2013 (behind Texas). Production of crude is sky-rocketing –  in 2013 it was double what it was in 2011 (check out this graph of the boom). Less than one percent of North Dakota’s energy production in 2011 was from renewables.
  • Wyoming is the smallest U.S. state by population, but it dwarfs every state but Texas when it comes to energy production. Wyoming produces four times as much as Colorado and seven times as much as North Dakota. In 2012, Wyoming was the country’s top coal-producing state, yielding more than three times as much as the next closest state, West Virginia. Thanks to Wyoming’s biomass production, it actually had the highest percent of renewables of these three states, at nearly nine percent.

Colorado, North Dakota and Wyoming are net energy producers. But as a nation, the U.S. is a net energy consumer: We use more energy that we produce within our borders, so we have to import energy to meet out needs. Stay tuned tomorrow for a look at energy consumption in these three key states.

We’re just getting started. What  questions do you have about energy? Send them to us here, on Twitter, or on Facebook.

Data notes:

  • Where did you get this data? This data is from the Energy Information Administration’s State Energy Data System (SEDs). The EIA is a federal agency focused on (you guessed it) disseminating information about energy and tools like this U.S. energy map. We also used population data from the U.S. Census Bureau (ACS 2011 1-year estimates, for the data geeks among you).
  • Why does this graph use data from 2011? Yes, 2011 is a long time ago. The EIA has published full, detailed reports on energy production and consumption, by type and industry, for each state through 2011, and reports on sub-sectors of the energy industry – like coal and natural gas – for more recent years. We didn’t want to compare, say, wind production from 2011 with natural gas production from 2012.  As soon as we can get more current numbers, we’ll update these graphs.
  • What is a Btu? Btu stands for British thermal unit, and it’s a measure of energy. One Btu is roughly equal to the amount of energy it takes to heat one pound of water (about two cups) by one degree Fahrenheit. You’ll often see energy measured in other units – Joules, calories, watt-hours, etc. — and with oil, you’ll see production reported in physical quantities, too (barrels).