Visualizing Oil Addiction In The U.S.

A tiny percentage of the United States uses more than 10% of all our oil. If we want to cut back, these people might be a good place to start.

Look around—petroleum is everywhere, even if you can’t see it. It’s used to manufacture your contact lenses, your soda bottles, your medication, and the packaging of your frozen foods. Most noticeably, it’s in your car (unless you drive an electric vehicle or use biodiesel). But not all places consume petroleum at the same rate, even in the gas-guzzling U.S.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, and League of Conservation Voters teamed up in September to create a map visualizing oil use in the country. The groups examined gasoline consumption in every county in 2010 to make the map above.

The map indicates that some counties consume significantly more oil than others. According to the NRDC, 108 counties (out of the 3,144 counties in the U.S.) use over 10% of the country’s oil. The top 10 gas guzzling counties are, of course, ones that lack extensive public transportation options. As you can see in the graphic here, four of the top 10 counties are in Texas. The biggest oil-consuming county is Los Angeles, with 147 gallons of oil consumed per person every year. It’s no coincidence that L.A. is known more than almost anywhere else in the country for its car-heavy culture.

NRDC provides a number of suggestions for reducing oil addiction in these areas, including improving access to public transit systems, increasing overall transportation choices, and upgrading fuel efficiency. That’s all easier said than done, but there is some hope: the government’s new fuel economy standards are expected to cut down on U.S. oil consumption by 12 billion barrels, saving over $1.7 trillion.

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  • Eileen Newman

    Regardless of how you feel about the map, the point is we use a lot of oil and maybe we could be using less. There's a great event next weekend sponsored by the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association called the Green Building Open House Tour. It allows people to visit properties that have been successfully using these systems, ask questions, and learn about the results they are delivering. Anyone who wants more info can check it out here:  tinyurl.com/8ltpe4x

  • John Brashear

    it takes energy to make things, you cant make things without Energy, and using energy isnt a bad thing,  what you should be concerned about is the fact the US has more than enough energy to be independent yet politics and ignorance is forcing the US to put our Money for energy in the hands of many of our enemies, we are funding the people who hate us, and the same people are funding terrorists , why is that not more of a concern than anything else ?, I am 62, I remember when Lake Michigan was so polluted you couldn't swim in it near Chicago, now you can, the US is MUCH cleaner now that it was 30-40 years ago, coal fired plants now are many times more efficient than they used to be and pollution is negligible with all the Billions spent on new pollution devices like scrubbers and burners that have virtually no particulate emissions , when will Americans realize the US has to use a LOT of Energy to be the Worlds Largest and best producers of what we make and sell?....it's time to stop listening to those on the left and develop ALL our energy resources to be competitive with nations that have much cheaper labor.....

  • JT

    I'm sure the reason the 1800 people in Steele County, ND use less oil than the 1.6M people in New York County, NY, is because they have better public transit. Are you people for real???

  • Gabor Nagy

    well, everyone said it, isn't it the lamest map and conclusions in the history of otherwise inspiring maps of fc? I would seriously take it off. They teach it the very first GIS clas, showing basic correlations are not worth mapping, i.e. where there is more people, there will be more food consumed. same with oil, etc. There are many interesting aspects this data could be presented but this is not it.

  • nside1

    So wait...the counties that have more people use more oil?  This article just blew my mind.

  • CitizenWhy

    Silly. You need to do a Gallon Per Person map of each county. Of course heavily populated places will use more oil. C'mon.

  • Mcfsrn

    Cars in the UK get 60-80+mpg....why can't the cars over here have the same mileage?

  • John Brashear

    what Cars would those be ?, here they wouldnt qualify as a "car", and on High Ways they would most certainly be unsafe with other traffic

  • Quinn Raymond

    This is a wildly misleading chart-- because the counties that consume the most oil, per capita actually consume the least. This basically just shows population density.

  • EllGuapo

    Seriously! The map should be per capita to be something worth considering. You can see LA using less than half than most the others on that list, and the least of the whole list, per capita. I'd guess you see the highest per capita in rural areas where you must drive everywhere and no walking / public transportation.

  • Gc

    Oil! UGG! it's terrible! The poor earth is filled with the stuff! Let's all pull together to help our planet. We need to remove it from the earth as quickly as possible to make the earth healthy. Once it's removed, we probably need to store it somewhere or maybe burn it.  

  • adjwilli

    Isn't that basically just a map of population density? Not really surprising.

  • John Brashear

    The real question is, how much were these people paid to tell us what most opf us already know ?