The effects that fluctuating oil prices have had on the average American vary widely by state, according to a report released Wednesday by the Natural Resources Defense Council.
"Fighting Oil Addiction: Ranking States' Oil Vulnerability and Solutions for Change," a report (PDF) prepared for the NRDC by David Gardiner & Associates, ranks U.S. states in two major ways. One list ranks U.S. states by their dependence on oil, taking in factors like gas prices. The other ranks states' efforts to reduce oil dependence, taking into account public transportation funding, state fleet efficiency, hybrid purchasing incentives, emissions standards, and clean-energy projects.
In 2008, Mississippi, Montana, South Carolina, and Oklahoma residents were the hardest hit by oil prices with their drivers spending a larger percentage of their income on gasoline than other Americans. The NRDC's official ranking is by both percentage of income and actual dollar amount spent on gas. So while Mississippi ranked worst for drivers spending the largest percentage of their income on gas, Oklahoma drivers actually spent the most, spending on average $2,766.65 in 2008.
There were some surprises in the report.
A state that you might not normally associate with clean energy (or clean air) seems to have reinvented itself. New Jersey, who just recently announced a major solar effort for its leading power utility, was ranked seventh for states doing the most to promote clean-energy technology and reduce oil dependency in 2008. Not surprisingly, California, which has also been buying big into solar power for utilities amid a plethora of other green initiatives throughout the state, was ranked first.
The states doing the most to wean residents off oil, according to the NRDC report:
- New Mexico
- New York
- New Jersey
Ten states were also singled out by the NRDC for exerting the least amount of effort to wean themselves off oil in the organization's eyes.
"The failure of the 10 worst states to take meaningful action to reduce oil dependence exacerbates the national security and environmental harms associated with our current transportation habits. These and other states need to be drivers of change," the NRDC said in its report.
The 10 states making the least amount of effort to reduce oil dependence, according to the NRDC report:
- West Virginia
- South Dakota
- North Dakota